Trade union struggles and celebrations

Today, myself and another member of the delegation attended an anniversary celebration of the Confederation des travailleurs haitiens (CTH), held at their headquarters in downtown Port au Prince.

The celebration was a lively and festive event, starting at 10 am and lasting well into the afternoon. I’m guessing that 200 people attended in total, men and women both, and many young people. There were lots of speeches given, some tracing the history that the union has lived since its founding in 1959, others focused on the present challenges facing working people in Haiti.

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Popular organizations

Today, we visited a neighbourhood in the upper Delmas Road section of Port au Prince, called Jacquet. It’s an area where residents have begun to take the organizing of their community into their own hands, led by young people who do not necessarily come out of the Lavalas political parties of ousted President Aristide and the current President Preval.

The young people recently took the initiative to organize a primary school to serve young people in the neighbourhood. The school operates on next to no budget and salaries, and classroom content favors inclusive teaching methods with a strong component of Haitian history.

The community has also taken the lead in organizing weekly clean-ups of garbage and litter. There are still some wrinkles to work out, as the city has not always come through in a timely way with pick up of the resulting pile of trash.

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Trade unions in Haiti

Two months ago, public and commercial transport drivers in Port au Prince went on strike for two days. Much of the city’s commercial and public services were shut down. The strike was a reminder to all that workers and peasants in this country are determined to struggle for better living standards and for a better society. They are also prepared to pressure the elected government harder to make this happen.

The strike shut down most commerce and public services in the city. The issue was the rising price of gasoline. Transport drivers were getting hit with rising gasoline prices. Transport companies as well as drivers, many of whom work on contract to private vehicle owners, tried to raise the price of their services, but the population balked at paying higher fees. Drivers and owner-operators were caught between rising prices, government refusal to stabilize or lower prices, and the people’s refusal to pay higher prices.

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A day in historic Cap Haitien

Cap Haitien is Haiti’s second largest city. It lies on the northern coastline and mountains rise sharply not even a kilometre inland in the city center. To the south and east, a large flat agricultural plain stretches all the way to the border with the Dominican Republic, about 60 km away.

We arrived after a difficult 11-hour drive that covered perhaps 200 km. We experienced a 45 minute delay when rain made the downhill mountain road we were on too slippery and dangerous. The brief but intense rain flooded rivers and streams in our path. We had to ford three rushing rivers. Here was a blunt illustration of the consequences of the deforestation of much of Haiti.

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Four days on Haiti’s north coast

Hello reader,

We arrived in this city, Haiti’s second largest, at 2 am last night after a long drive of nine hours from a small town at Haiti’s northwest corner. Since leaving Port au Prince five days ago, we have visited three cities and towns, driving a total distance of some 450 km. It has been a grueling trip because the roads in Haiti are exceptionally bad. For all intents and purposes, routes north of Port au Prince are impassable to cars. The secondary routes that we have driven are barely navigable in the large 4 X 4 vehicule our delegation has rented. The state of the roads and the absence of any visible evidence of a crash program to repair them is a shocking commentary on the failure of three and a half years of foreign occupation in Haiti. I will have much more to say on this in the coming days.

During the past four days, we have learned a great deal about the social conditions throughout Haiti and the political views and expectations of the Haitian people. If I have not written to this blog site during this time, it’s because we have had little internet access. As well, any time spent writing would have taken away from the precious little time we have to meet and talk to Haiti’s people. So please bear with me and tune into this blog site over the next 24 to 48 hours. I return to Port au Prince tomorrow and will spend a lot of time writing up all I have learned during this first week in Haiti.

My best wishes to you all,


Mayors appeal for urgent aid in northwest Haiti

By Roger Annis

Port de Paix, Haiti—August 8, 2007
“We are one hour of heavy rainfall away from a humanitarian catastrophe here in Port de Paix,” said one of this city’s deputy mayors, Eluscane Elusme to members of a human rights factfinding delegation organized by the U.S.-based Fondayson Mapou and Haiti Priorities Project. The delegation is spending four days touring northern Haiti.

Elusme and another deputy mayor, Wilter Eugene, gave a wide-ranging interview to the delegation yesterday morning. At times, it was difficult to hear each other over the clamour of the street traffic passing by on the adjacent main street.

The two mayors painted a picture a city of 200,000 living on the edge of human survival. They consider the city uninhabitable in its present condition. There is no running water and electricity service is provided at late night only, for four to six hours. The city lies at sea level; heavy rainfall would flood tens of thousands out of their precarious homes and overwhelm any rescue effort. The consequences of a hurricane strike is unthinkable. There would not be enough transport available to get people out of the way.

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