The Long Whodunit

Feb 5, 2014 by

I counted Jean Dominique among my friends. I listened to his show on Radio Haiti Inter every morning when I lived in Haiti in the mid-1980s, and we were on friendly terms up until the day he was assassinated at his radio station on Delmas in Port-au-Prince on April 3, 2000, along with the station’s security guard, Jean-Claude Louissaint. Now that a Haitian court has handed down a nine person indictment, how much closer are we to the truth about these killings? If he were alive, Jean Dominique would be the first to point the finger at his killers and say their names out loud into a live microphone.

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Four Years After

Jan 14, 2014 by

Four years after the earthquake, Haiti has rebounded, according to Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.

How did Lamothe frame the recovery he claimed for Haiti? First, in terms of government ministries that are being physically rebuilt. And then: housing. On that subject , the prime minister talked to the Herald in government-speak that was hard to unravel (“Out of 3,000 social housing, we have 1,500 that were inaugurated,” he told the Herald’s no doubt confused Jacquie Charles. He mentioned roads, and clinics, and a center for children. Most of his figures seemed incredibly inadequate, given Haiti’s needs.

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Mon camarade, mon frère

Oct 31, 2013 by

A few months after the Haitian earthquake of January, 2010, I drove around Port-au-Prince with my old friend and beloved mentor Dr. Rénald Clérismé,a former Catholic priest and former foreign minister, a Yale PhD who never lost the common touch. He was instrumental in organizing peasant protests in Haiti’s Northwest in the mid 1980s, and he tried later to keep Pres. René Préval’s government grounded in the popular and peasant movements. Rénald died on Oct. 29 in Port-au-Prince. Here’s what I wrote about him after he and I spent the day three years ago visiting old sites from his long years in the capital [photo: Julie Brown/Yale]:

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Drones Over Haiti

Oct 22, 2013 by

There are drones flying over Haiti these days, I was surprised to learn.

What are they doing there, you might want to know — and so did I, since I had heard nothing about this, and found out about it somewhat fortuitously.

I was looking recently at images on Google generated by a search for the University at Limonade (I’m interested in the University, the industrial plant nearby, and the international precious-metals mining projects in the region), when I stumbled upon this picture (below) of a quartier populaire somewhere in Haiti:

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Does History Matter in Haiti?

May 22, 2013 by

In the June 6, 2013 issue of The New York Review of Books, there is a review of two of my books, The Rainy Season, and Farewell, Fred Voodoo, as well as of Haiti: The Aftershocks of History, by Laurent Dubois, the great chronicler of Haiti’s tragic and grandiose history.

The review was written by Mischa Berlinski, the award-winning novelist who has written almost all of the post- earthquake pieces on Haiti for NYRB. Berlinski lived in Haiti from 2007 through 2011 as the husband of an official of the UN Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti (MINUSTAH), a 10,000-strong multinational peacekeeping force that arrived in the country in the wake of a coup against elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and that has been the sole serious force of order there since.

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Petit Pierre’s Ascent

Apr 22, 2013 by

When Graham Greene went to Haiti, one of the many fascinating characters he met there was Aubelin Jolicoeur, above, a gossip columnist for Le Nouvelliste. It was an unusually rough time in a country accustomed to rough times. The brutal François (Papa Doc) Duvalier was in power, and his secret police, the Tontons Macoute, combed the cities, towns, and villages, hunting down enemies of the regime.

Here’s how Greene describes Jolicoeur, to whom he gives a fictional name, in Chapter Two of The Comedians, upon the narrator’s return to Haiti, by ship:

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