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Fr. Rick Frechette: Fake News Has Real Consequences in Haiti

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Contributed by Fr. Rick Frechette, CP D.O., St. Damien Hospital, Port au Prince, Haiti

For the past year-and-a-half (not to mention the last 400 years), the Haitian people have been suffering deep political and social upheavals, often violent, caused by the decreased value of the local currency by half, and increased cost of living by a quarter.

Fr. Rick and St. Damien Staff bury the restitute dead.

Source: NPH

Do the math with whatever income you have. (The majority of Haitians earn less than $800 annually.)  You can now afford 25% of what you used to be able to buy. In addition, the severe shortages of fuel, the scandal over the funds that subsidized fuel, and the frequent and violent blocking of the roads, bring dramatic challenges to every single person in Haiti without exception.

People cannot live like this.

Now, imagine these challenges for St. Damien’s Pediatric Hospital in the heart of Port au Prince. One issue is what to do with trash, when the company licensed to safely dispose of infectious/ dangerous waste is weeks delinquent in collection because of the fuel scarcity and violence. I won’t press your imagination, but I will say I have never seen so many maggots in my life.

A more urgent problem for us during the past ten days has been what do we do with our decaying dead (mostly children) when we have surpassed both the refrigeration space limits and the time limit that refrigeration works for the non-embalmed. The maggots become far worse.

The roads to our usual burial land in Titanyin was impassable for ten days because of the violence. On September 24, last Tuesday, I had to take action: I arranged to secure graves for 55 children and six mothers who did not survive childbirth at a closer cemetery, near the airport in Port au Prince. On that morning, my staff and I prepared and loaded the bodies into my small Polaris, which could dodge the burning barricades well. 

We arrived at Drouillard Cemetery at our assigned time, 11:00 am, with 11 staff aboard to help with the burials. Except for a crowd of curious people at the gate, there was no incident. Our St Luke Foundation and NPH Haiti logo, work and reputation are well-known and respected.

After the bodies were unloaded, I wandered a short distance to offer a rosary for the people we were burying and all the dead at Drouillard. I had no idea there was a growing fury or the cause of the suddenly unruly crowd.

Here’s what happened: Our humble burial for these children who found no peace in this life, and whose deplorable poverty made their lives painful, sorrowful and short, was now being manipulated for political purposes. A popular radio station, with scouts out on the streets full of burning barricades, sounded this fake news message over the radio waves as we buried the dead:

“We have information that St Luke Hospital is burying the bodies of the people killed for participating in manifestations.”

This was meant to inflame hatred toward the President, among the people demonstrating against him on the streets. We were immediately seen as agents of the government, covering up the evidence of their attacks on demonstrators by dumping their victims in anonymous graves. All hell broke loose, and we could not calm the people with any words or efforts. 

The 11 of us were separated into two groups, each having to fend for ourselves, shot at and pelted by rocks. It was not the people at the gate who attacked us, it was a three wheeled motorcycle used for merchandise transport, which had been hijacked to carry eight armed men in the wagon, followed by others on motorcycles, all armed. They were responding to the message heard on the radio.

I credit the rosary I clutched in my pocket for giving me the strength and wits to load six of us into my Polaris and drive a quarter-mile away to relative safety. I left my colleagues and tried to return for the five others, but it was not possible. A motorcycle bandit from another gang was passing by, and I paid him to go the quarter-mile to Drouillard and bring back news.

In a few minutes he was back. “See that smoke?” he asked. “That’s your truck burning.” Then, we both heard rounds and rounds of gunfire. I got sick to my stomach as I imagine Raphael, Cesar, Andre, Paschal and Renald full of bullets. A funeral is not supposed to produce a funeral. I felt again in my pocket for the rosary.

Immediately, my cell phone rang. Andre was calling with good news: he, Paschal and Renald had jumped a wall at the industrial park and were hiding, and needed me to come for them. I gladly did this at once. Now, there were only two of us missing, Raphael and Cesar.

Andre told me that the gang in a nearby neighborhood heard we were in trouble and came by the hundreds, shooting all the way, to help us. When the perpetrators ran off on foot to jump walls, the gang leader, Ti Hougan (little voodoo priest), blew a hole through the gas tanks of the 20 or so motorcycles, and threw a match on each as the precious and rare gasoline became the fuel for the destructive fire.

Within minutes, Raphael and Cesar were brought to us by Ti Hougan. While I greatly appreciate his help, the rosary in my hand made it clear who it was that saved us, and there is nothing “little,” at all, about Him and Her.

During all the commotion, the radio station reported confirmation with cemetery authorities that St. Damien has a 20-year history of burying the destitute dead at Drouillard, and we were authorized to do so that morning. They retracted the political interpretation, but it was too late.

Irresponsible journalism, such as radio emissions that contain false news, released without any verification, cause incredible harm to the fragile democracy in Haiti, and easily result in the loss of life and property. Fake news is also a devastating weakening of strong democracies, like the United States.

The privilege of being able to reach hundreds of thousands of people via the airways, has to be balanced by the highest obligations to responsible reporting. These obligations are summarized simply by the fact that what is reported must be true.

It is that simple, and that hard. Simple because truth is truth. Hard because, no matter what, not all truth should be spoken. There is so much to weigh in terms of justice, before speaking. What is true to say and what is just to say, need to be molded by what is wise to say.

Individuals and organizations, churches and businesses, can suddenly be dangerously and irreversibly affected by false reporting—even, in our case, with years of respected humanitarian reputation.

As an American Citizen, a Catholic missionary priest, and a founding member of two large organizations serving in Haiti for 32 years, I attest to the fact that under the present  circumstances, it is daily more difficult and dangerous for us to do our work.

If our work—and that of many other missions and NGO’s—becomes impossible, the consequences for those who count on us for employment, education, healthcare, spiritual evolution and human solidarity, will be nothing short of catastrophic.

I don’t write this to look for funds. I write this to try to save our humanity, sealed in God’s image.

Each of us needs to pledge in our lives to only speak what is truthful, non-partisan, non-manipulative. Truthful words, just words, wisely chosen, intended only to build up, correct, strengthen and affirm the human family. We must hold media outlets accountable to do the same.

Additionally, we all must hold ourselves to another very high standard: we must respond to the very worst of what we see and live through, with the very best of what is within us. Only this stops the deadly spread of hatred and revenge.

Please join me in the simple, yet hard, quest to be our best selves before it is too late.

With prayers for peace and good will in our troubled world, and confident in a future that God’s guidance can make real for us, I wish you God’s blessings and all good things.

Father/Doctor Rick Frechette serves as Nos Petits Freres et Soeurs (NPFS, French for “Our Little Brothers and Sisters”) Advisor and Ethical and Medical Consultant/Advisor for NPH International.

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Gunshots wound four at Haiti protest

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At least four people have been shot and wounded during a protest in Haiti’s capital after a speech by embattled President Jovenel Moise. Several hundred people were marching from the Delmas to Petionville neighbourhoods when shots were fired from nearby. Associated Press journalists didn’t see the source of the shooting, but saw a local journalist, a police officer and two protesters rushed away with apparent bullet wounds. No information was immediately available about the condition of the wounded people or their identities. Monday was the anniversary of a key battle of the Haitian Revolution, and earlier in the day Moise rejected calls to resign. The president said he would continue to try to negotiate with his opposition. Opponents say Moise should leave office over economic mismanagement and failure to investigate corruption. Leaders of the opposition including members of Haiti’s Senate organised months of protests that have paralysed the country but demonstrations have been slackening in recent days, with some sections of the capital returning to near-normal activity. Opposition members had called for mass marches on Monday but they did not materialise. “The country is more than divided, the country is torn apart,” Moise said after reviewing members of Haiti’s newly reconstituted army. “We ask for unity, between the rich and the poor, between those of the top and the bottom, between the people with black skin and light skin, between rural and urban. “If we were united as one we would not see exploitation of a small group while the majority stand in misery, poverty and insecurity. This is not what our ancestors wanted.” Australian Associated Press

https://nnimgt-a.akamaihd.net/transform/v1/crop/frm/silverstone-feed-data/29302472-3f67-47be-b785-4c4ac13099c8.jpg/r0_74_800_526_w1200_h678_fmax.jpg

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Arrest Warrant Issued for US Investment Banker Charged with Manslaughter in Anguilla

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Scott Hapgood is refusing to return to Anguilla on the manslaughter charge.

THE VALLEY, Anguilla, Wednesday November 13, 2019 – An international arrest warrant has been issued for an American banker who, claiming that he fears for his safety because of public outcry, has refused to return to Anguilla to face the court for killing a hotel worker.

Anguilla’s Attorney General Dwight Horsford said 44-year-old Scott
Hapgood is now considered a fugitive and faces extradition to the small British
Overseas Territory to face the court.

The UBS investment banker is facing a manslaughter charge, accused of killing 27-year-old employee of the luxury Malliouhana Hotel, Kenny Mitchel, during a confrontation while on a family vacation in April this year.

Kenny Mitchel

He was to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on Monday, but
Horsford said Hapgood’s defence team had notified local officials the night
before that they had advised their client to not return.

“The letter further stated that this advice rested on concerns for their
client’s safety and the fairness of the judicial process in Anguilla,” Horsford
said in a statement released yesterday. “Both concerns are totally groundless.”

Governor Tim Foy, in a separate statement, insisted that the island was
committed to fairness in the judicial process.

“He has no reason to doubt the fairness of the judicial process. The
rule of law and respect for it are paramount in this territory, as in all
constituent jurisdictions of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court,” Foy
said.

“Throughout this process, we have kept a respectful silence to
enable the court to go about its business — this is how we do things here. We
have not and will not engage in public relations shenanigans of the type we
have seen — that is not how we do things. Hapgood has the right to fair
judicial process and he will receive that.”

But US media has quoted Hapgood’s spokesman Jamie
Diaferia as saying that “it has become progressively apparent that Scott would not receive a fair trial
in Anguilla”.

That is a position the island’s magistrate has dismissed, describing Hapgood’s court absence on Monday as “willful defiance”.

The US banker claimed that during the
family vacation at the resort, a knife-wielding Mitchel entered the hotel room where he and his two
daughters were, and demanded money. A violent struggle ensued and Mitchel ended
up dead.

Hapgood was subsequently charged and remanded to prison, but was later released on $74,000 bail by the High Court. He has returned to Anguilla for court appearances on three occasions
since being charged.

Positional asphyxiation was initially given as the cause of death for Mitchel, but toxicology resultsit later showed that the hotel worker had high levels of cocaine and alcohol in his bloodstream.

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Haïti – Actualité : Zapping…

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Haïti – Actualité : Zapping…
17/11/2019 09:55:20

L’opposition veut empêcher Moïse d’aller à Vertières :

Jeudi à quelques jours de la commémoration du 216ème anniversaire de la bataille de Vertières, (lundi 18 novembre) l’opposition radicale a annoncé la reprise de la mobilisation anti-gouvernementale. Me André Michel assure que Jovenel Moïse ne pourra pas fouler la place des héros, à Vertières. Un geste plus médiatique et symbolique que contraignant pour le Chef de l’État, qui déjà l’année passée avait commémoré cet anniversaire et fait son discours à la Nation sans se rendre à Vertières https://www.haitilibre.com/article-26154-haiti-vertieres-215e-message-a-la-nation-du-president-jovenel-moise.html

Camion contre taxi-moto, 3 morts :

Vendredi après-midi à Titans, une localité de la 4ème section communale de Petite-Rivière de Nippes, un camion immatriculé TM 119 34 a heurté violemment un taxi-moto causant la mort du conducteur et de ses deux passagers.

Vers une grève à l’HUEH… :

Lebien Joseph, Président du Syndicat des Travailleurs de la Santé de l’Hôpital de l’Université d’État d’Haïti (HUEH) met en garde la Ministre de la Santé Marie Greta Roy Clément sur les risque d’une grève à l’HUEH si rien n’est fait pour améliorer les conditions de travail des employés ainsi que l’approvisionnement d’intrants.

Démenti de l’administration des douanes :

L’Administration Générale des Douanes (AGD) dément les rumeurs circulants sur les réseaux sociaux concernant le contenu d’un convoi de containers qui a franchi la douane de Malpasse en direction de la Capitale. L’AGD affirme que tout ces containers qui transportaient seulement des matières premières nécessaires à la production de condiments alimentaires, ont rempli toutes les formalités douanières et appartiennent à des entreprises haïtiennes clairement identifiées.

Le Costa Rica inquiet de la crise en Haïti :

Vendredi dans un communiqué, le Ministère des Affaires Étrangères du Costa Rica a exprimé officiellement sa préoccupation face à la violence en Haïti et a ajouté sa voix aux appels au dialogue entre les parties comme moyen de garantir la Paix sociale et la compréhension entre les haïtiens « Le Costa Rica se joint aux appels pour ne pas encourager les actions qui aggravent la situation, mais plutôt pour rechercher la voie du dialogue qui permettra de surmonter la crise sociale, économique et politique dans ce pays […] » indique le texte officiel.

Délégation de la Nouvelle Orléans au Cap-Haïtien :

Jeudi14 novembre, Yvrose Pierre la Mairesse du Cap-Haïtien a accueilli à l’aéroport international du Cap-Haïtien, une délégation venue de la Nouvelle Orléans (Louisiane, USA) conduite par le Dr Yvens Laborde pour une visite de courtoisie d’une semaine dans le cadre du jumelage entre les deux, villes signé en mai 2019 https://www.haitilibre.com/article-27811-haiti-culture-jumelage-entre-la-nouvelle-orleans-et-cap-haitien.html

HL/ HaïtiLibre

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