Archive for May, 2008

Woman gets 7 years in Haitian slave case

Posted in English, Miami Herald, Slavery on May 28, 2008 by haitiinthenews

A former schoolteacher and her husband were sentenced Tuesday for forcing a Haitian teenage girl to work as a slave in their home.

For six long years, Simone Celestin spent her weekdays — up to 15 hours — cleaning, cooking and washing clothes for a Cutler Bay family. On weekends, she did the same at the family’s Miramar home. At night, the young Haitian girl bathed with a bucket, ate leftovers and slept on the floor.

On Tuesday, Celestin, now 25, sat in silence in the back of a federal courtroom in Fort Lauderdale listening to a judge punish the people who kept her as a modern-day slave.

U.S. District Judge Jose A. Gonzalez Jr. sentenced Maude Paulin, a former middle-school teacher, to seven years and three months in prison and ordered her to pay $162,765 in restitution to Celestin.

Her ex-husband, Saintfort Paulin, was sentenced to 18 months of probation, which includes six months of house arrest in his New Jersey home.

In March, Maude Paulin, 52, who taught at a Miami-Dade school, was convicted of human trafficking and conspiring to deprive Celestin of her civil rights by holding her against her will.

Paulin’s mother, Evelyn Theodore, and Saintfort Paulin, were found guilty of a lesser charge — harboring Celestin for purposes other than profit. Theodore, who recently suffered a stroke, will be sentenced at a later date.


Maude Paulin apologized in the courtroom as her family members sobbed and buried their heads in their hands. She dried her tears and looked away during much of the three-hour sentencing hearing, begging the judge for a second chance.

”I love Simone with all my heart,” Paulin said. “I regret it and blame myself.”

”I did this with my heart and didn’t think with my head,” she said repeatedly.

The story of how Celestin got justice for the savage treatment she suffered at the hands of these two families began in the young woman’s homeland of Haiti, according to prosecutors.

Celestin was taken from her mother at age 5 and sent to a Haitian orphanage before being smuggled to South Florida in 1999. That year, Theodore arranged to bring the girl, then 14, to Miami under the pretext that she was a “niece.”

Saintfort Paulin told authorities he was under the impression Celestin was going to be treated like a foster child, but instead his relatives forced her to work in slave-like conditions.

Maude Paulin’s attorney Richard Dansoh said his client’s “intention in this case was good, but the execution was disastrous.”

At trial, Celestin took the stand and told the jury she spent weekdays at Maude Paulin’s Cutler Bay home and weekends at the Miramar home of Claire Telasco, 43, Maude Paulin’s sister.

Celestin said she was repeatedly hit by Theodore and Paulin — they used shoes, brooms, even a mortar, which is used for grinding food. But she said Paulin’s husband intervened several times to stop the beatings. He also tried to enroll her in school but was unable to because of her language barrier.

It wasn’t until June 2005 when Celestin was freed from the family. A friend of Celestin’s mother, who still lived in Haiti, arranged her escape with help from a Little Haiti social service agency and a South Florida immigration advocacy group.


At the sentencing hearing on Tuesday, Maude Paulin’s friends and family painted a sympathetic portrait of her in hopes the judge would be lenient. They talked about the time and money she has donated to Haitians living in Haiti and the United States.

”Two months ago in this courtroom there was a woman described as a monster, someone unloveable, but that’s not my mother,” Maude Paulin’s daughter, Erika, told the judge. “She is my inspiration.”

Saintfort Paulin tried to hold back his tears as he stood before the judge.

”I thought Simone was coming for completely good intentions,” he said. “I was not around as much as I should have been. I’m sorry to Simone.”

Although the judge sentenced Maude Paulin to the low end of federal guidelines, the seven-year sentence represented a victory for prosecutors who sought seven to nine years. ”This is an extremely serious crime,” said prosecutor Edward Chung. “This was a public school teacher who should have known better, yet she did nothing to help this girl.”

Maude Paulin must surrender to the court before 12 p.m. on July 30 and will be taken to a South Florida prison. When she is discharged, she must serve three years of supervised release. The Florida Department of Education has also revoked her teaching license.

Saintfort Paulin must begin serving house arrest on July 2 and pay the court $500.


Colombia, Venezuela and Haiti are the most violent

Posted in El Universal, English, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on May 28, 2008 by haitiinthenews

The most violent countries in the hemisphere are Colombia, Venezuela and Haiti, and they are also among the most violent in the world, according to the 2008 Global Peace Index, a ranking that compares the nations in terms of peace that was released on Tuesday in London.

Iraq occupies the last position in the ranking of 140 nations prepared by the analysis division of British economic magazine The Economist, in close cooperation with an international expert team. More than 20 variables are considered in the probe, AFP reported.

In Latin America, Chile is the most peaceful country -19 in the list, and Colombia ranks 130 out of 140, with the highest levels of internal violence.

Venezuela ranks 123, Haiti 109, Honduras 104, Guatemala 103 and Ecuador 100. Variables in the ranking include violent crime, political unrest, number of police officers, number of murders, number of imprisoned people and access to weapons.,-venezuela_20A1592199.shtml


Canadian medical aid worker kidnapped in Haiti

Posted in Uncategorized on May 28, 2008 by haitiinthenews

Associated Press


Haitian and U.N. police were searching Thursday for a Canadian medical aid worker who was kidnapped in the hills above the Caribbean nation’s capital. 

Nadia Lefebvre was seized early Wednesday, said U.N. police spokesman Fred Blaise. The 32-year-old is on a short-term assignment in Haiti for the Paris-based medical organization Medecins du Monde, also known as Doctors of the World.

A spokeswoman for the group declined to comment.

The upscale Tomasin neighborhood where Lefebvre was captured is home to many foreigners and upper-class Haitians, and officials say they are monitoring a kidnapping network that has been working in the area for months.

Lefebvre’s is the 20th confirmed kidnapping in Haiti this month. At least 139 people have been kidnapped nationwide in 2008 — 10 percent more than during the first five months of last year, Blaise said. Most kidnappings occurred in the capital.

The increase in kidnappings-for-ransom is likely linked to strengthening gang activity, Blaise said, and not desperation over the rising cost of living, which sparked deadly riots that toppled the prime minister in April.

Reports that a ransom has been demanded for Lefebvre could not be confirmed independently.

USAID to send $25 million more

Posted in Aid, English, Miami Herald, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on May 28, 2008 by haitiinthenews

The U.S. Agency for International Development gave $25 million more in food aid for Haiti, bringing its total to $45 million.

The U.S. Agency for International Development, which last week announced that it was sending $20 million in emergency food aid to Haiti, will be sending $25 million more, the agency’s top administrator said Friday.

”We know that we are not the full solution, we are a part. We are trying to be supportive and we are trying to help,” USAID Administrator Henrietta Fore said.

Fore flew from Washington to Miami to personally deliver the news, inviting Haitian-American leaders to the USAID warehouse in West Miami-Dade County. The funds, she said, will help provide 36,000 tons of food staples to 2.5 million Haitians through three types of programs targeting the disabled, orphans, mothers, children and the elderly.

The programs will be administered by the World Food Program, Catholic Relief Services and World Vision, and will pay Haitians with food in exchange for helping to rebuild irrigation systems and roads to boost domestic production efforts.

”As close neighbors, the United States has a vital stake in providing both emergency assistance as well as long-term support for Haiti’s economic, social and economic development,” she said.

Friday’s announcement was welcomed by South Florida’s congressional delegation including U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who introduced Fore at the event. Diaz-Balart noted that the U.S. Congress in a ”bipartisan basis” had approved $250 million.

”Today the United States takes another step characteristic of its generosity of [helping] Haiti,” he said.

The announcement comes six weeks after deadly riots over rising food prices rocked Haiti, leaving several people dead and the country without a working government. Haitian senators fired the prime minister on April 12, blaming him for the crisis, and he has yet to be replaced.

While Haitian community leaders from Miami-Dade and Broward counties also welcomed the news, they were not without their criticism of USAID, saying despite millions of dollars spent and years of U.S. involvement in Haiti, abysmal poverty persists in the Caribbean nation.

”What we are doing here today . . . it’s only for short-term relief,” said Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami, who recently visited the country as part of a delegation led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

“The U.S. has been engaged in Haiti for almost 200 years now. I think it’s time for us to reasses our intervention and understand it is better for us to invest in bringing Haitian agriculture to its past grandeur.”

Fore said the agency was re-evaluating its work in Haiti and had recently formed an executive task force to review programs and redirect efforts to help Haitians produce domestic crops.

”Come to visit our website, see the programs that we have. Give us your voices, your thoughts back. Make sure that we are focusing our existing programs in the right way,” she told the audience.

Leonie Hermantin, deputy director of Lambi Fund of Haiti, which works with peasants, urged Fore to include peasants and other beneficiaries of aid on the task force.

Later in an interview with The Miami Herald, Fore said that while the tons of food will address the immediate need, USAID was helping Haiti’s long-term needs, including providing loan assistance through two Haitian banks to assist farmers.

Haiti’s president names new prime minister choice

Posted in English, Miami Herald, Politics, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on May 28, 2008 by haitiinthenews

Haitian President Rene Preval has named a new choice to be his prime minister: adviser and confidante, Robert “Bob” Manuel.

Manuel previously served as state secretary for public security in 1996 during Preval’s first presidential term, before resigning from the post.

According to sources close to the president, Preval informed the presidents of both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate late Sunday night of his nomination. The decision came after a week tensed with speculation and consultations with lawmakers and political party leaders over who the next nominee would be.

Haiti has been without a working government or prime minister ever since the Haitian senate fired Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis following a week of deadly food riots in the Caribbean nation.

Two weeks ago, members of the lower chamber rejected Preval’s first choice, international banker Ericq Pierre.

It remains to be seen whether lawmakers will approve Manuel, who is scheduled to present his official documents on Monday in order to get the process started. Lawmakers must first decide if he’s qualified to hold the post before he can move to the second and final step: ratification.


Dominican Crackdown Leaves Children of Haitian Immigrants in Legal Limbo

Posted in English, Immigration, New York Times, Photo, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on May 28, 2008 by haitiinthenews

Francesco Broli for The New York Times

Ángel Luis Joseph, 17, training with a friend near San Pedro de Macoris, the Dominican Republic. His status as the child of Haitian immigrants threatens his dream of playing in the United States.

Published: May 25, 2008

SAN PEDRO DE MACORIS, Dominican Republic — Two obsessions define this country: baseball and Haiti. Ángel Luis Joseph, a teenage outfielder with a hot bat, is caught between Dominicans’ devotion to the one and disdain for the other.


The New York Times

San Pedro de Macoris has produced many baseball players.

So many major leaguers have emerged from this sugar town that agents keep an eye on even pint-size players with potential. Ángel, 17, was only a lanky grade school boy when his coach noticed he showed all the signs of becoming a standout. Before long, the San Francisco Giants came calling with a $350,000 offer, he said.

But then politics interfered with his dream. To obtain a visa to the United States, Ángel went to a local government office to get a copy of his birth certificate. Little did he know that the Dominican government had recently begun a crackdown on the children of Haitian immigrants, even those like him who have lived their whole lives in the Dominican Republic.

“If your last name is weird, they won’t give you your documents,” he said. “Same thing if your skin is dark like mine.”

Ángel’s request for his birth record was denied, prompting the Giants to withdraw the offer.

His parents, like hundreds of thousands of others, moved from Haiti to the Dominican Republic in the 1970s to work in the sugar cane fields. Their children were born in the Dominican Republic, grew up here and became, in their eyes at least, full-fledged Dominicans. They speak Spanish, dance merengue and play “pelota,” the popular name for the Dominican pastime baseball.

“They don’t play baseball in Haiti,” said Melanie Teff, who has studied the issue for Refugees International, an advocacy group in Washington. “That shows how Dominican this guy and many people like him are.”

The government does not necessarily agree, and Ángel awaits a ruling on his appeal for access to his Dominican birth record.

The issue arose with a fury several years ago when advocates took the government to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, whose jurisdiction the Dominican Republic acknowledges, to protest the denial of birth certificates to two ethnic Haitian children.

While the case was in process, the government changed its migration law in 2004 to specifically exclude the offspring of Haitian migrants from citizenship. The Dominican Constitution grants citizenship to those born on Dominican soil, except the children of diplomats and those “in transit.” That has long meant that the children of immigrants, no matter their legal status, gained Dominican citizenship.

After the international court ruled against the Dominican government in 2005, ordering that damages be paid to the two children, the Dominican Supreme Court said that Haitian workers were considered “in transit” and that their children were therefore Haitian, not Dominican.

Last spring, the government agency in charge of identity documents, the Joint Electoral Council, issued a memorandum telling its employees to watch for the offspring of foreigners trying to identify themselves as Dominican. It now hangs at every clerk’s office and is shown to people thought to have Haitian blood.

“The issue of Haiti has become very combustible in the Dominican context,” said Daniel Erikson, director of Caribbean programs at the Inter-American Dialogue, a research group in Washington. “You have a deep resentment of Haiti, and that’s driving these responses that don’t reflect favorably on the country.”

Government officials point out the strain that poor illegal immigrants from Haiti put on the Dominican Republic. The two countries share the island of Hispaniola but have vastly different levels of development.

Of course, Haitians contribute, too. They have long worked in the jobs Dominicans did not want to do, mostly cutting cane on plantations that supply sugar to the United States. The government has not just known of their presence for decades but has in some cases encouraged their arrival.

The Dominican government says the new crackdown is a security matter, aimed at wiping out fraud. And in some cases over the years, young Haitians who had crossed the border illegally claimed to have been born on the Dominican side.

But opponents accuse the government of applying its 2004 law retroactively, which they call an illegal practice that has longstanding societal animosity against Haitians at its heart.

“The racist beliefs of some are being used to twist our laws,” said Cristóbal Rodríguez Gómez, a Dominican constitutional law professor at Ibero-American University, who is acting as counsel for another descendant of Haitians who lacks documents. “This is a crime, a monstrous crime.”

In a recent report, two United Nations experts found “a profound and entrenched problem of racism and discrimination” in the Dominican Republic, mostly affecting people of Haitian origin. The report said Haitians and their descendants face “extreme vulnerability, unjustified deportations, racial discrimination, and are denied the full enjoyment of their human rights.”

The Dominican government rejected the conclusions, portraying the relationship between the neighbors as one of solidarity.

Ángel is one of many who find their lives in limbo under the new rules. Emildo Bueno Oguis, 33, a college student who recently married an American woman, could not get his birth certificate either and therefore cannot apply to the American Embassy for residency to join her in Florida.

Mr. Oguis, whom Mr. Rodríguez represents, challenged the government’s decision in court, accusing the council of denying his rights. But his claim was rejected, despite the fact that he had previously been issued a Dominican identity card and a Dominican passport.

Confusing the matter, a lower court judge ruled in favor of another descendant of Haitian immigrants, Nuny Angra Luis, who had been denied her birth certificate. That decision was announced the same week in April as the other, diametrically opposed ruling.

Demetrio F. Francisco de Los Santos, a government lawyer, dismisses the notion that anyone’s rights are being violated. Descendants of Haitians, he argues in court documents, can simply go to the nearest Haitian consulate for their documents.

While Haitian law does grant citizenship to the offspring of Haitians, the issue is complex. Ángel’s parents would have to prove they are Haitian for him to get citizenship in Haiti, a country which he has never visited.

While some are indignant about the Dominican crackdown, Ángel seems surprisingly calm.

Before a recent practice, in which he flagged fly balls and then fired them into the infield, Ángel said his mother could not sleep after he lost the Giants contract. (“Ángel Luis Joseph is one of a number of players in the Dominican that clubs are finding do not have the proper paperwork to prove their identity or age,” the Giants said in a statement, indicating that the team had been forced to look for someone else.)

Ángel may have another shot. The Cleveland Indians have come calling, he said, visiting the humble shack that he shares with his parents and seven siblings just outside a sugarcane field.

The Indians’ offer was about a third of that put forward by the Giants, but still a windfall for a boy from a batey, the name for the workers’ camps that grow up around sugar cane plantations.

But while he awaits a ruling, he acknowledges worrying that he will see his dream disappear a second time.

“God wants me to be a baseball player — that I know,” he said. What he does not know is whether the Dominican Republic, the country he considers himself from, agrees.

Report Details Child Abuse

Posted in Child Abuse, Corruption, English, The Washington Post, Written Press/Presse écrite/Prensa escrita on May 28, 2008 by haitiinthenews

Report Details Child Abuse

Group Cites Aid Workers, U.N. Troops

Washington Post Staff Writer 
Wednesday, May 28, 2008; Page A10 

UNITED NATIONS, May 27 — U.N. peacekeepers and international aid workers from 23 organizations have engaged in sexual exploitation of children, including some as young as 6, in Haiti, Ivory Coast and South Sudan, according to a report by Save the Children, a British-based aid agency.


The organization said its findings, combined with reports of similar abuse elsewhere, suggest that efforts to rein in such abuse over the past decade have failed. It concluded that sexual abuse of children — often involving exchanges of food for sex — probably occurs in virtually every post-conflict zone, and it called for creation of a global watchdog organization to probe such abuse.

“Our research suggests that significant levels of abuse of boys and girls continue in emergencies, with much of it going unreported,” said the report, titled “No One to Turn To.” “The victims include orphans, children separated from their parents and families, and children in families dependent on humanitarian assistance.”

The 28-page report — based on interviews with 250 children ages 10 to 17 — concluded that it is impossible to know the extent of the problem, since few victims report abuse and few U.N. agencies or private charities compile data on abuse by their personnel. Save the Children acknowledged receiving eight allegations of sexual misconduct involving minors last year by its own field staff, including three that were proven to have merit and led to the perpetrators’ dismissal.

“Who would we tell?” said one Haitian boy, explaining why victims of sexual abuse seldom report the crime. “We wouldn’t tell the police because they are afraid of the [U.N.] peacekeepers. . . . Anyway, I’ve heard that the police do this.”

U.N. peacekeepers have been “identified as a particular source of abuse,” especially in Haiti and Ivory Coast, according to the report. But it praised the U.N. peacekeeping department for exhibiting “managerial courage and transparency” in making the allegations public.

The United Nations ordered the repatriation of more than 100 Sri Lankan peacekeepers from Haiti in November, after reports that they had sexually exploited local women and underage girls. Last summer, Moroccan peacekeepers in Ivory Coast came under investigation for sexually abusing local woman and minors.

Those cases follow a spate of reports on sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers and aid workers stretching back to Cambodia in the early 1990s. Reports of sexual abuse plagued U.N. missions over the past eight years in Bosnia, Congo, Liberia and several other countries.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the report’s frank assessment and said abuse by peacekeepers and aid workers is “a very serious issue.” He vowed to investigate the allegations and take any “necessary measures.”

Jasmine Whitbread, the chief executive of the British relief agency, said the United Nations and others have made commitments to resolving the problem in the past — without success.

“All humanitarian and peacekeeping agencies working in emergency situations, including Save the Children UK, must own up to the fact that they are vulnerable to this problem and tackle it head-on,” she said.