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Entries in Haiti (38)

Tuesday
Oct232012

Bill and Hillary Clinton Share Romantic Moment in Haiti

Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As President Obama and Mitt Romney faced off in their final debate about foreign policy, two of America’s most experienced global politicians, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her husband former President Bill Clinton, traveled on a one-day trip to Haiti. 

The purpose of the trip was philanthropic, but the couple left a little room for romance, reminiscing about the last time they were in the country together for their honeymoon more than 37 years ago.

President Clinton, jokingly thanked the secretary for inviting him to the event, an opening of an industrial park with new businesses in Northern Haiti.

“Some of you know we came here on a delayed honeymoon 37 years ago in December,” said the former president.  “You know she’s been here a lot and I started coming here before the earthquake.  I’ve been here so much I’m sure I owe taxes to the Haitian government I have not paid.  But in all those 37 years this is the first time we have been back together.”

President Clinton congratulated the people of Haiti for their resiliency and resolve to de-centralize the country’s economy and invite foreign investment.

When it was Secretary Clinton’s turn to speak, she also told the crowd that the she and her husband “fell in love” with Haiti, and that the country was special to them.

“As Bill told you, we came here for the first time together just after we were married and fell in love with Haiti, and have just celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary, which is exhausting to think about,” said the Secretary to laughter and sustained applause.  ”It’s been an amazing experience from start to now and we have had a deep connection to and with Haiti ever since.  So it gives me a special pleasure to be here with my husband, who has worked so hard on behalf of Haiti and its development, because he believes so much in the people of Haiti and the potential that exists within each and every man, woman, boy, and girl.”

The Clintons were joined on the trip by actors Sean Penn, Maria Bello, Ben Stiller and his wife, as well as model Petra Nemacova, fashion designer Donna Karen and Sir Richard Branson. 

The group opened a $300 million facility in the Caracol area of Haiti, located more than a 100 miles from the worst-hit areas of the 2010 quake zone.  The hope is that the Caracol Industrial park will provide thousands of jobs to the northern part of the country, helping to transform Haiti’s fragile economy.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug242012

From Haiti to the Florida Keys, Bracing for Isaac

Satellite image of Isaac on August 24, 2012. NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team(NEW YORK) -- As hundreds of thousands of people in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, hunkered down in preparation for Tropical Storm Isaac to make landfall Friday night, a storm watch was issued for the Florida Keys.

Already Friday, Isaac had started to blast parts of the island of Hispaniola -- shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic -- with winds that are expected to reach 50 to 60 m.p.h. Downpours also could dump nearly two feet of rain in places.

Nearly 400,000 people are still living in makeshift tent cities in Haiti, more than two years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the region.

Aid workers Friday made a frantic last-minute effort to warn refugees, many of whom did not know a massive storm was on the way.

“The flimsier of these tents will be the first to go like kites into the sky,” said Bill Horan of the nonprofit group Operation Blessing International. “There’ll be people screaming, children terrorized.”

In addition to fears of flash flooding, those in the area were concerned about the spread of disease.

And in the Keys, locals were stocking up on supplies to brace for the first major storm to approach Key West in seven years. Isaac, said to be twice the size of a typical hurricane, is now just 48 hours out.

In Miami, big retailers were sold out of water, and people along the Keys were installing hurricane shutters and tying up boats.

Many tourists in the Keys told ABC News they intended to stay through the storm. Monroe county officials said Friday that since Isaac should still be a tropical storm when it reaches the Keys, they had decided not to issue a visitor evacuation.  Schools and government offices, however, will be closed Monday.

Isaac, which was originally feared to be headed toward the GOP convention in Tampa, will now likely bring heavy rain there with winds of up to 50 mph, but not the hurricane-force wind, rain and flooding that was originally predicted.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr112012

Haiti Teen to Testify in UN Scandal

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The teenage boy who was allegedly sexually assaulted by United Nations peacekeepers in Haiti reportedly plans to testify against his attackers.

Fritz Dorziair, a representative for the boy's family, said the teen and his parents will travel to Uruguay -- the home country of his alleged attackers -- for a May 10 court hearing, according to international and local media reports.

In September, ABC News obtained a cell phone video that purportedly showed an incident in July when a group of Uruguayan peacekeepers abusing the then-18-year-old. The minute-long video appears to pan out from a sideways close-up of the alleged victim's strained face to reveal his body being held down on a mattress by the uniformed men. The alleged assailants can be heard laughing as a shirtless soldier kneels behind the Haitian victim and appears to be assaulting him. The video ends as a soldier grabs the bedraggled young man's arm and seems to try pulling him onto his feet.

The boy's parents told ABC News they didn't know exactly what happened to their son until the video started circulating in Haiti, prompting them to file written depositions in a Haitian court. Interviewed by a reporter at a Haitian courthouse, the young man said he was snatched from behind as he walked by the U.N. base. He alleged he was beaten and sexually molested. "They're bad people -- vagabonds," he said.

A medical certificate filed with the court in Haiti and obtained by ABC News alleges the victim was beaten and had sustained injuries consistent with having been sexually assaulted.

The suspects in the case were arrested and sent back to Uruguay to face trial, but the case appeared to stall in January and they were all released. When they were released, a U.N. spokesperson told ABC News the men would be freed until the teen could be located for testimony at which point the men would be back for trial.

"The recent release of the soldiers, pending completion of the civilian trial, will not circumvent the possibility that the soldiers be re-imprisoned, should they be found guilty and sentenced accordingly," spokesperson Anayansi Lopez said in January.

Under an agreement between Haiti and the U.N., peacekeeping troops are only subject to discipline and legal action from their country of origin.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar092012

Clinton Admits UN Source of Haiti Cholera Outbreak

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, offered the strongest statements to date acknowledging the role U.N. peacekeepers are believed to have played in the deadly outbreak of cholera in quake-ravaged Haiti.

During a tour of a hospital there this week, Clinton was pressed on the U.N.'s role in an outbreak that has killed more than 7,000 Haitians -- a politically-charged topic for more than a year now, with the U.N. repeatedly refusing to accept responsibility for the outbreak despite mounting scientific evidence that international peacekeepers were the most likely culprits.

"I don't know that the person who introduced cholera in Haiti, the U.N. peacekeeper, or [U.N.] soldier from South Asia, was aware that he was carrying the virus," Clinton said, adding that "it was the proximate cause of cholera. That is, he was carrying the cholera strain. It came from his waste stream into the waterways of Haiti, into the bodies of Haitians."

Clinton went on to say that he believes what "really caused" the outbreak was the country's dismal sanitary conditions. "Unless we know that he knew or that they knew, the people that sent him, that he was carrying that virus and therefore that he could cause the amount of death and misery and sickness, I think it's better to focus on fixing it."

In a statement to ABC News, U.N. spokesperson Kieran Dwyer said, "In relation to former President Clinton's reported remarks to the press this week in Haiti, we note that he emphasized the importance of focusing on improving Haiti's sanitation system and the fact that the United Nations and others are working hard to do this." Dwyer added that in 2011, over three million people received water supplies, water treatment products, water filtering systems and sanitation materials from United Nations agencies and its humanitarian partners.

In January, ABC News reported on compelling scientific evidence suggesting a United Nations peacekeeper from Nepal carried the virulent strain of cholera to a remote village in October 2010, and dumping of raw sewage from the UN encampment sent the disease into a key water supply for Haitians. In addition to killing 7,000 people, more than 500,000 Haitians have been infected in Haiti.

Leading researchers from Harvard Medical School and elsewhere told ABC News that they felt confident they had traced the strain back to Nepal, and that they believe it was carried to Haiti by Nepalese soldiers who came to Haiti to serve as U.N. peacekeepers after the earthquake that ravaged the country on Jan. 12, 2010. Haiti had never seen a case of cholera until the arrival of the peacekeepers, who allegedly failed to maintain sanitary conditions at their base.

"What scares me is that the strain from South Asia has been recognized as more virulent, more capable of causing severe disease, and more transmissible," said John Mekalanos, who chairs the Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology at Harvard Medical School. "These strains are nasty. So far there has been no secondary outbreak. But Haiti now represents a foothold for a particularly dangerous variety of this deadly disease."

The U.N. had previously repeatedly said there exists no conclusive evidence fingering peacekeepers for the outbreak. The international organization has already faced hostility from Haitians who believe peacekeeping troops have abused local residents without consequence. They now face legal action from relatives of victims who have petitioned the U.N. for restitution. And the cholera charge could further hamper the U.N.'s ability to work effectively there, two years after the country was hobbled by the earthquake.

Over the summer, Assistant Secretary General Anthony Banbury told ABC News that the U.N. sincerely wanted to know if it played a part in the outbreak, but independent efforts to answer that question had not succeeded. He said the disease could have just as easily been carried by a backpacker or civilian aid worker.

Banbury said the U.N., through both its peacekeeping mission and its civilian organizations "are working very hard ... to combat the spread of the disease and bring assistance to the people. And that's what's important now."

"The scientists say it can't be determined for certainty where it came from," Banbury said. "So we don't know if it was the U.N. troops or not. That's the bottom line."

Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research called Clinton's comments an important first step toward accountability.

"President Clinton's acknowledgement, as a U.N. official, should bring us one step closer to the U.N. taking responsibility for what it has done, and fixing it." Weisbrot said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb242012

Prime Minister of Haiti Resigns After Less Than 5 Months

THONY BELIZAIRE/AFP/Getty Images(PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti) -- Haitian Prime Minister Garry Conille resigned suddenly Friday after taking the job less than five months ago.  

Conille had been under pressure from President Michel Martelly to step down after several disputes over issues that include how to handle reconstruction and repair contracts worth millions of dollars, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The announcement is sure to add to the political instability in Haiti, which is still recovering after the catastrophic earthquake two years ago. The LA Times reports Conille, who once served on a Haiti reconstruction board for former President Bill Clinton was only the third choice of President Martelly, a former pop music performer, to lead the nation's governing body.

It is uncertain who will replace Conille.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan122012

Two Years After Quake, Haiti Has a Way to Go 

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Exactly two years ago on Thursday, a devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, leaving an estimated 316,000 people dead, another 300,000 injured and one million homeless.

Today, the country has made considerable progress in its recovery efforts, though much work still remains.

"People have access to clean drinkable water that they did not have prior to the earthquake, the schools are open, there are community sanitation facilities; so even in the poorest of neighborhoods that I was walking through today, you do see progress," David Meltzer, who's in Haiti with the Red Cross, tells ABC News.

Meltzer says more than anything else the Haitian people are in need of homes.

"Right now our focus of course is trying to get the remaining hundreds of thousands of people out from under those tarps and tents and into more permanent housing," he says. Haitians erected tent cities across the country after the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake left them homeless.

Many neighborhoods are also still blocked off by rubble, further delaying rebuilding.

"The rubble has to be broken up with a pick ax and then carried down the hill with a wheel barrow.  If you can imagine what that's like, you start seeing why it takes so long," Meltzer explains.

Yet, he notes that, "the good really does outweigh the negative," and reminds us that "recovery does take time."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov082011

UN Peacekeepers Caused Cholera in Haiti, Group Says

THONY BELIZAIRE/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- More than half a million Haitians have contracted cholera, and an advocacy group has filed a complaint with the United Nations blaming the fast-moving epidemic on UN peacekeepers who allegedly allowed raw sewage to leach into a tributary of the nation's largest river.

After half a century without a single case of cholera, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti says, a country already ravaged by a massive 7.0 earthquake, intractable poverty and waves of political instability has now seen five percent of the population contract the illness, and more than 6,000 people die from it, because of the reckless actions of peacekeepers from Nepal.

"The sickness, death, and ongoing harm from cholera suffered by Haiti's citizens are a product of the UN's multiple failures," states the complaint filed by the advocacy group, which represents more than 5,000 cholera victims and their families. "These failures constitute negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, and deliberate indifference for the lives of Haitians."

The allegations, announced during a press conference Tuesday, are liable to further heighten tensions between the Haitian people and the more than 7,000 United Nations peacekeepers stationed there on a mission to protect them.

In September, ABC News reported on a cell phone video that allegedly showed the brutal assault of a young man at the hands of UN peacekeeping troops from Uruguay. The video sparked street protests and an outcry from Haitians who objected to the lack of accountability for the brigades of blue-helmeted troops that lived on bases inside the country.

While the assault on the Haitian man tapped into what Haitians interviewed by ABC News called a growing sense of distrust of the UN mission there, the cholera outbreak has had more far-reaching and catastrophic implications for the country. The complaint filed Tuesday estimates that more than 457,000 have been infected, some 6,477 have died, and attempts to corral the outbreak have so far proven unsuccessful.

"Once cholera is introduced, it is extremely difficult to eradicate," the complaint says. "The cholera epidemic is expected to persist in Haiti for at least several years."

In an interview with ABC News in September, a top UN official said his organization was deeply concerned about the outbreak, and was devoting resources to combat it. But he did not believe there was conclusive proof that the UN troops were responsible for carrying cholera into Haiti.

Anthony Banbury, the assistant secretary general for field support, told ABC News that the UN commissioned four independent research studies with the goal of tracing the origins of the outbreak, but that it remained unclear if the troops were to blame, or if a backpacker or aid worker or tourist was ultimately at fault.

"We don't know if it was the U.N. troops or not," Banbury said. "That's the bottom line."

The Institute for Democracy in Haiti lays out its case in a 37-page complaint, which it filed with the UN under the rules established when the international body first deployed peacekeepers to Haiti. It describes how cholera is endemic in Nepal, how new Nepalese troops arrived in the village of Meille in October of 2010, how the troops failed to maintain sanitary conditions at their encampment, how witnesses described dark plumes of refuse leaching into a major waterway, and how cholera exploded in the region near the Meille camp in the weeks after their arrival.

Further, it cites numerous independent studies that match the strain of cholera to the one in Nepal using DNA and other evidence. One study, published in the medical journal The Lancet in July, found that all the evidence pointed to the Nepalese UN troops.

"There was an exact correlation in time and places between the arrival of a Nepalese battalion from an area experiencing a cholera outbreak and the appearance of the first cases in Meille a few days after," said the study by leading epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux. "The remoteness of Meille in central Haiti and the absence of report of other incomers make it unlikely that a cholera strain might have been brought there another way."

The advocacy group has asked the UN to empanel an independent claims commission to review their complaint, and award them a financial judgment to compensate victims for their suffering and economic losses. They are also seeking a greater investment by the UN in efforts to eradicate the deadly disease.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep022011

UN Peacekeepers Accused of Sexually Assaulting Haitian Teen

THONY BELIZAIRE/AFP/Getty Images(PORT SALUT, Haiti) -- Haitians in this remote seaside town are demanding an investigation into allegations that United Nations peacekeeping troops pinned down an 18-year-old Haitian man and subjected him to a humiliating sexual assault.

The alleged assault occurred in July, but graphic cell phone video surfaced in recent days, showing what appears to be the four UN troops in camouflage and some wearing the trademark sky blue berets attacking the man. As the video began circulating through the coastal village, it sparked a growing sense of outrage there and prompted the victim's mother and father to seek criminal charges against the United Nations peacekeeping officers, who are from Uruguay. Both parents submitted written depositions on Wednesday in Port Salut's courthouse.

A medical certificate filed with the court in Haiti and obtained by ABC News, alleges the victim was beaten and had sustained injuries consistent with having been sexually assaulted.

Word of the alleged attack quickly made its way up the chain of command at the United Nations, both in Haiti and in New York, where officials are now vowing to see the incident investigated and the alleged perpetrators brought to justice. Michel Bonnardeaux, a spokesperson for peacekeeping operations based in New York, told ABC News that officials in his office first became aware of the allegations Saturday. They sent a diplomatic note to the Uruguayan mission requesting the country deploy a national investigative officer to Haiti immediately.

"The defense minister of Uruguay has expressed deep concern and said they will take all the necessary action," Bonnardeaux said. "We see this as a breakdown of the command and control structure. If the allegations are proved, the assailants must be brought to justice."

Messages left Friday with the Uruguayan mission in New York were not returned.

Bonnardeaux said the troops involved in the incident have been confined to their barracks.

Under an agreement between Haiti and the U.N., peacekeeping troops are only subject to discipline and legal action from their country of origin. Uruguay has deployed 1,100 troops to the quake-battered island nation. Bonnardeaux said the primary purpose for the U.N. troops being in Haiti is to insure the protection of Haitian civilians.

But that is not what appears to be happening on the one-minute video, which pans out from a sideways close-up of the alleged victim's strained face to reveal his body being held down on a mattress by the uniformed men. The alleged assailants can be heard laughing as a shirtless soldier kneels behind the Haitian victim and appears to be assaulting him. The video ends as a soldier grabs the bedraggled young man's arm and seems to try pulling him onto his feet.

Interviewed by a reporter at the courthouse, the young man said he was snatched from behind as he walked by the U.N. base. He alleged he was beaten and sexually molested. "They're bad people -- vagabonds," he said. The young man's mother, a street merchant, held up a pair of black pants to show they were torn. She said it was not until the video surfaced that she discovered what had happened.

Uruguayan Navy Lieutenant Nicolas Casariego confirmed to ABC News that the video is real. He spoke through the barbed-wire fence that surrounds the base where the alleged incident took place.

Casariego, the base commander, called the apparent abuse in the video "a game" and said it wasn't sexual in nature. "It's a young guy who is normally around here, like these people," he said, pointing to a Haitian family sitting outside their home twenty yards away. He said the soldiers engaged in "some kind of bullying, but nothing more."

The alleged assault is just the latest in a series of incidents that have frayed relations between Haitians and the 12,000 foreign troops who have been stationed in Haiti under the U.N. banner now for several years. Anti-U.N. riots shut down major cities and thoroughfares after an outbreak of cholera last October. Rumors circulated that a U.N. base had introduced the disease to Haiti. Scientific studies by the Centers for Disease Control and others have since confirmed the source of the outbreak was a Nepalese peacekeeping base in central Haiti.

Sinal Bertrand, a Haitian parliamentary deputy from the Port Salut area, said he began talks with U.N. officials last week about other allegations against the soldiers by residents of Port Salut, ranging from sexually exploiting young women to environmentally polluting the area.

Bertrand said he is calling on the U.N. to ensure that the alleged assailants in this latest case are punished.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug042011

Emily Poses Severe Flooding Threat to Fragile Haitian Camps

ABC News Radio(PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti) -- The island nation of Haiti awaits the former tropical storm Emily, which has been downgraded but still threatens to cause flooding.

The Haitian government has warned citizens to go home and take shelter. There are plans to evacuate homeless camps, where upwards of 600,000 people live in tents.

Within such camps there is no running water, food is severely rationed, and many residents share a single latrine. These camps are currently facing the biggest threat since the earthquake, in 2010.  

Forecasters are predicting anywhere from eight to 20 inches of rain.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug032011

Tropical Storm Emily Bears Down on Haiti

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti) -- Tropical Storm Emily is bearing down on Haiti and the Dominican Republic, with heavy rains expected to arrive around noon Wednesday.

The National Hurricane Center expects up to ten inches of rain to fall, triggering flash floods and mudslides as many Haitians still find themselves living in makeshift tents after last year’s earthquake.

Many Haitians have received text messages warning them to seek safer shelter, though few of them have any option to do so.

There was already been a mudslide on the island of Martinique in Emily's wake -- following widespread flooding.

Five thousand customers are without power on that island, and one death there has been blamed on the storm.

Copyright ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio