Caribbean Theater

Haiti: Aristide's lawyers question inquiry

Former Haitian prime minister Yvon Neptune (2002-2004) appeared before investigative judge Lamarre Bélizaire at the judge's Port-au-Prince office on Aug. 22 to answer questions in an inquiry into allegations of corruption and drug trafficking during the second administration of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004). Bélizaire has notified the authorities that 33 people, most of them connected with Aristide's Lavalas Family (FL) party, are not permitted to leave the country because of their connection with the investigation. After the Aug. 22 session, Neptune, who has broken with Aristide, told reporters that he had no problem answering Bélizaire's summons. (Radio Kiskeya, Haiti, Aug. 23)

Aruba frees wanted Venezuelan 'narco-general'

Venezuela has scored a win in its ongoing diplomatic and propaganda war with Uncle Sam. The most recent flare-up started July 24, when authorities in Aruba arrested Gen.Hugo Carvajal, a top Venezuelan official wanted in the US on drug trafficking charges. Carvajal had been military intelligence chief under the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, and was accused by the US Treasury Department of using his position to protect cocaine shipments for Colombia's FARC guerillas. He had just arrived in Aruba after being appointed Venezuela's consul there—and was promptly detained at Washington's behest. Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro called the detention a "kidnapping," and demanded Carvajal's immediate release. And three days later, a judge on the island found that since Carvajal had a diplomatic passport, his arrest was illegal. He was sprung and quickly made the short flight back to Venezuela. "He's returning free and victorious. It's a triumph for sovereignty and legality," president Maduro said, praising the "bravery" of the Dutch government. (The Guardian, July 28; BBC News, July 27; Maduradas, July 24)

Haiti: opposition grows to mega-mining

At a July 25 meeting in Port-au-Prince, some 28 Haitian organizations expressed their interest in joining a movement to oppose plans under way for open-pit mining in the north of the country, with a focus on gold mining operations by the Vancouver-based Eurasian Minerals company. The meeting was organized by the Collective Against Mining, which was formed a year ago by Tèt Kole Ti Peyizan Ayisyen ("Small Haitian Peasants Unity"), the Defenders of the Oppressed (DOP), the Popular Democratic Movement (MODEP), the Haitian Platform of Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), the Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA) and Batay Ouvriye ("Workers' Struggle").

Cuba: another USAID program exposed

From October 2009 to some time in 2011 the US Agency for International Development (USAID) sponsored a program that paid almost a dozen youths from Costa Rica, Peru and Venezuela to travel to Cuba in order to obtain intelligence information and identify potential government opponents among students and other youths, according to an investigation that the Associated Press (AP) wire service published on Aug. 4. The revelation comes four months after AP reported on the agency's ZunZuneo "Cuban Twitter" program. Like ZunZuneo, the program employed the Washington, DC-based private contractor Creative Associates International for operations. Analysts said these revelations indicate that the US is losing interest in the older generation of Cuban dissidents and is trying to develop opposition among younger Cubans.

Haiti: UN head makes cholera 'pilgrimage'

United Nations (UN) secretary general Ban Ki-moon made a two-day visit to Haiti on July 14 and July 15 to promote a $2.2 billion program that he launched in December 2012 to eliminate cholera from the country over the next 10 years. He traveled with Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe to the village of Las Palmas, near Hinche in the Central Plateau, to announce a "Total Sanitation Campaign," the second phase of the cholera elimination program, which remains underfunded. Ban called the visit a "necessary pilgrimage"; at a church service in Las Palmas he acknowledged "that the epidemic has caused much anger and fear" and that it "continues to affect an unacceptable number of people."

Cuba: foreign investment law takes effect

Cuba's new Foreign Investment Law went into effect on June 28, as was planned when the National Assembly of Popular Power passed the measure in March. The government is hoping to generate some $2.5 billion in investment each year under the law, which cuts tax rates for foreign investors from 30% to 15% and guarantees that most foreign-owned companies will be exempt from expropriation. Investment is expected to be focused on light industry, packaging, chemicals, iron and steel, building materials, logistics and pharmaceuticals; much of it will go to the Mariel port, 40 km west of Havana, which is being developed as a major "free trade zone." The government is currently studying 23 proposals for projects from Brazil, China, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Russia. The new law doesn't allow for private Cuban citizens to invest, and Cubans will work for the foreign companies through state-owned employment companies, not directly. (La Jornada, Mexico, June 29, from DPA, AFP, Prensa Latina; Global Post, June 29, from Xinhua)

Haiti: Martelly harasses opponents, gets award

Haitian investigative judge Sonel Jean François ordered political activist Rony Timothée provisionally released on June 4 while an inquiry continued into charges that he had set fire to a vehicle and incited others to crime during a May 14 demonstration against the government of President Michel Martelly. Timothée—a spokesperson for the Patriotic Force for Respect for the Constitution (FOPARC), which backs the Family Lavalas (FL) party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1996, 2001-2004)—was arrested by armed civilians on May 17 with a misdated warrant and was held in prison in Arcahaie, a town some 30 km north of Port-au-Prince, starting on May 19. Judge François is also investigating two other defendants in the case, Assad Volcy and Buron Odigé.

Puerto Rico: austerity law may spark strike

As of June 19 several Puerto Rican public employee unions appeared set to call a general strike to protest Law 76, a special austerity measure that Gov. Alejandro García Padilla signed on June 17. A coalition of 35 unions said it had selected a date for a general strike but would keep it secret so as to take the government by surprise; the union didn't describe the form the strike would take. Two major unions—the Union of Workers of the Electrical Industry and Circulation (UTIER), which represents workers at the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA, AEE in Spanish), and the Authentic Independent Union (UIA), which represents workers at the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA, AAA in Spanish)—held strike votes on June 17 and then staged a protest at San Juan's Plaza Las Américas shopping mall. Some unions also started holding smaller job actions in the first week of June. In October 2009 the unions responded to earlier austerity measures with a powerful one-day general strike, but it was unclear whether they would be able to mount a similar action now.

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