Archive for the Miami Herald Category

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.


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.


Brazilian leader’s visit to Haiti eagerly awaited

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

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is coming to Haiti amid mounting pressure for him to serve as a moderating force in the Caribbean nation’s political impasse.

A U.N. Brazilian peacekeeper stands guard as children wait outside a school in the Cite Soleil section of Port au Prince Tuesday. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will arrive in Haiti Wednesday.
A U.N. Brazilian peacekeeper stands guard as children wait outside a school in the Cite Soleil section of Port au Prince Tuesday. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will arrive in Haiti Wednesday.


With the largest battalion of United Nations peacekeepers patrolling the streets of Haiti, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been one of the Caribbean nation’s leading defenders, championing its fledging democracy both at home and abroad. 

But as Haiti continues to drift politically, some are hoping that Lula’s arrival Wednesday will be the political nudge the troubled nation needs to get back on course.

”No one knows what he’s going to do,” a foreign diplomat said about Lula, who has received talking points in anticipation of his meeting with Haitian President René Préval.

”He knows what his colleagues from other countries are expecting,” said the diplomat, who asked for anonymity because he’s not authorized to speak on the matter.

Lula’s six-hour visit comes as Haiti is entering its seventh week without a functioning government or prime minister following food riots that left at least six people dead including a U.N. peacekeeper.


In its wake, Haitian senators fired Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis on April 12, accusing him of mismanaging the economy and triggering the crisis.

But as the crisis looms, so do frustrations and concerns in an impoverished country where Haitian and foreign observers are increasingly worried that the political impasse — coupled with the spike in global food and fuel prices — could force the country further into chaos.

”When I came into office, I thought this country was going to progress,” said Eric Jean-Jacques, president of Haiti’s lower chamber of deputies.

“But it’s the same old history that is being repeated. There is always a handicap.”


Two weeks ago, 51 of Jean-Jacques’ colleagues in the lower chamber rejected Préval’s choice to replace Alexis, international technocrat Ericq Pierre.

In frustration, both the ambassadors of Canada and the European Union went on Haitian radio warning that the longer Haiti remained without a government, the more it risks losing the gains it had made following Préval’s February 2006 presidential election.

On Sunday, Préval offered up a new nominee: political advisor and close friend, Robert ”Bob” Manuel.

But as a 53-member voting bloc in the lower chamber met on Tuesday to discuss wether they would support Manuel’s nomination, analysts remained divided over his chances.

Lula’s foreign ministry said the main purpose of his trip will be to figure out what role Brazil and the 7,060-strong U.N. Stabilization Mission, known by its French acronym MINUSTAH, can play in the “restoration of democracy in Haiti.”


”Our job isn’t to give advice,” said a spokeswoman in Brazil’s foreign ministry. “Haiti is a sovereign country. We’re only going to see what role we can play in rebuilding the country.”

Both Préval and Lula are expected to discuss the progress of various bilateral technical programs, such as a food program where Brazil has donated $200,000 and a trash collection program in Port-au-Prince that India, Brazil, and African countries have contributed to.

Brazil and Haiti are expected to sign five different accords.

They’ll also talk about the in-flow of international donations and evaluate whether it’s been satisfactory.

Lula is trying to organize a meeting for Haiti among international donors during next week’s annual World Food Program meeting in Rome.


Recently, Brazilian lawmakers approved Lula’s request to increase his 1,246-strong blue helmet soldiers in Haiti by an additional 100 engineers.

But like his Chilean and Argentine counterparts, Lula is facing domestic pressure to pull his troops out of Haiti.

”At this moment, the Brazilian position has been to renew our work with MINUSTAH. We don’t have the intention of leaving,” said the Brazilian foreign ministry spokeswoman.

Rubens Barbosa, a Brazil-based consultant who served as Brazil’s ambassador to the United States from 1999 to 2004, said that while he believes Brazil should end its mission in Haiti because of the costs, he sees the South American nation staying involved for the foreseeable future.

As for Lula’s ability to get Préval to listen to the international community, he said. “Lula will certainly try, but without the international community there to help, it’ll be very difficult for the country to come back.”

To read more about Haiti and South Florida’s Haitian community go to



Haitians mourn teen killed in kidnapping wave

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

Associated Press


Relatives and sobbing classmates overflowed the church in the Haitian capital, mourning the latest victim of a relentless kidnapping wave that has seen one person abducted nearly every day this year. 

Sixteen-year-old Karim Xavier Gaspard was tortured and killed by his captors last week, a horrific finish to one of 145 kidnappings registered across the country so far this year, said Fred Blaise, police spokesman for the 9,000-member U.N. peacekeeping mission.

Police are investigating the case but have not announced any arrests.

U.N. and Haitian police said they had no new information Tuesday about Nadia Lefebvre, the 32-year-old Canadian intern with medical aid organization Medecins du Monde who was seized May 21 near her house in the hills above the capital.

Kidnapping is up 10 percent from last year but has not matched the nearly 180 kidnapping victims recorded in the first five months of 2006, Blaise said. Twenty of the 26 abductions registered in May have occurred in the capital.

Gaspard’s death has shaken even this violence-wracked Caribbean nation. The Haitian newspaper Le Nouvelliste reported that the teenage son of a local banker was executed after less than four days of captivity even though his parents paid a ransom.

His body was found Friday in an open-air market. Alongside a Tuesday article about the case, Le Nouvelliste posted a blank photo box and the message: “The parents did not wish to publish the photograph of the victim, whose body was so mutilated.”

On Tuesday afternoon, classmates in school uniforms joined hundreds in black suits and dresses, filling pews and spilling onto the porch of a large Catholic church set among concrete homes outside the upscale suburb of Petionville.

Facing a framed photo of Gaspard and a gold urn containing his ashes, mourners sang hymns and hugged grieving relatives. Huddled teenagers sobbed near the doors.

Politics as usual endangers Haiti

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

On Sunday, the U.N. military and police force in Haiti known by the acronym MINUSTAH will observe its fourth anniversary. After a slow and rocky start, the mission has done a good job of offering a respite from the incessant political and gang violence that made life in Haiti so chaotic during the rule of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and after his departure into exile in February, 2004. Sadly, Haiti’s political class has largely squandered the opportunity to create a stable and enduring government that the people of Haiti can support.

New prime minister

Since April 12, when the Senate fired Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis for his alleged failure to offer strong leadership and manage the economy, the nation has been without a functioning government. President Rene Préval’s first pick to replace him, Ericq Pierre, an agronomist with the Inter American Development Bank, was rejected by lawmakers, ostensibly because of a failure to prove his citizenship. But the real reason was that Mr. Pierre’s very strengths — his technical experience as an international-aid expert — made him a suspect figure in Haiti’s clannish political circles.

Mr. Préval did little to support Mr. Pierre’s nomination, which sank by a 51-35 vote in the Chamber of Deputies. Most members of Mr. Préval’s own Lespwa political coalition voted against it. This was a major setback for a variety of reasons.

Most urgently, the existence of a caretaker government leaves Haiti unable to sign new aid deals or accept millions of dollars in outside aid following food riots that left at least six people dead in April. On a more fundamental level, the fiasco was all too typical of the petty rivalries and selfish concerns that have kept the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country in a state of arrested political development for decades. It suggests that Haiti’s political leaders have learned nothing from past mistakes.

Now Mr. Préval has put forward a new candidate for prime minister — his longtime advisor Robert Manuel. He may not possess Mr. Pierre’s technical expertise, but he cannot be faulted on political grounds. Haiti’s parliament should approve Mr. Manuel and restore a working government. Then Mr. Manuel must put capable managers in the Cabinet who can show progress on the political and economic fronts.

Boost for MINUSTAH

Today, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, whose country has done more than any other to bolster MINUSTAH, will visit Haiti. He should use the occasion to engage in sober talk about the responsibility of holding power. The international community is willing to continue helping, but MINUSTAH can’t stay forever. If Haiti’s leaders want to offer their country a better future, it is past time for them to show that they are up to the challenge.

Brazil to send more troops to Haiti

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

Associated Press


Brazil says it will send additional troops to Haiti to help build roads and stabilize the impoverished country. 

Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim says 100 soldiers from the engineering division will arrive in the Caribbean country soon. He could not specify when.

Brazil experts will also improve water resources and help Haitian farmers produce new vegetable varieties, he says. Deadly riots in April over rising food prices left seven dead and cost the prime minister his job.

Jobim arrived Wednesday with President Luíz Inacio Lula da Silva and other ministers for a one-day visit. They met with President René Préval and some of the 1,200 Brazilian troops stationed there.

The troops are part of a 9,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force.