The Multinational Monitor


H A I T I A N   H E L L

Haitian Hell

A Government Gone Awry

by William Steif

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti-The French Cultural Center on Harry Truman Boulevard in this swarming city of more than 800,000 people is holding an exhibit entitled "Poems on Stones."

Haitian poet Jean-Claude Chery has carefully written his poetry in India ink on dozens of large, flat stones. One is dedicated to the memory of Charlemagne Peralte, who was a brilliant, young Haitian army general who led a guerrilla action against the U.S. Marines when they occupied this Maryland-sized Caribbean nation during and after World War I. He was killed by the Marines-and some Haitian treachery in 1919, and the resistance collapsed. The Marines remained in Haiti for 19 years; they were finally withdrawn by President Roosevelt in 1934.

Another "poem on stone"-written in French, as all are-asks this question: "How can we celebrate our bicentenary (of independence) wearing the cap of `least developed'?"

In the year 2004 Haiti will have been an independent nation for two centuries. Independence followed a 13-year revolution led by such historic figures as Toussaint L'Ouverture. Napoleon's army was beaten and withdrew in 1804.

But Haiti today remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with a per capita annual income of only $320, according to the World Bank. In the Third World it joins a half dozen distant African nations, independent only a decade or two, as "least developed". Its six million people average only a quarter of the per capita income of the Dominican Republic, which occupies the eastern two thirds of the island of Hispaniola.

Haiti, the crown jewel of France's 18th Century Caribbean colonies, is an economic disaster today. Its mountains, reaching 8,800 feet above sea level, were stripped of timber by the French. Now they pour mud into the valleys. Three quarters of the people are rural; they eke out a subsistence existence on farms whose average size is under two acres, and those who can't get enough to eat on the farms come to the towns and cities-principally Port-auPrince, the capital-to live in squalor that is unimaginable to most Americans. Others, squander their savings trying to escape by leaky sailboats to Florida; the U.S. Coast Guard stops and "repatriates" them because U.S. law allows only for political refugees, not "economic" refugees.

The country's infrastructure is in sad shape. Although roads now link the north coast city of Cap Haitian and the south coast city of Jacmel, roads within Port-au-Prince are a shambles, overburdened by increasing numbers of autos. Power outages are common, partly because tankers carrying diesel fuel for Haiti's generators won't unload until they're paid in advance with U.S. Currency. The sewage system, built for a city of 100,000, is also falling apart. Only 20 percent of the capital's residents have access to safe drinking water, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development. The lake behind the Italian-built Peligre Dam is badly silted, and only two of its four penstocks are usable; funds provided for a suction dredge in the lake were never used for that purpose-they disappeared.

One of Port-au-Prince's newer businesses is selling water by the bucket. Entrepreneurs drive tank trucks into the mountains, fill up and return to the city to sell the water at exorbitant prices. Yet, at the same time, Haiti:

  • Buys four small Italian jet fighters, whose price comes to about $3 million apiece, including maintenance and training.
  • Pays Michele Duvalier, President-for-Life Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier's wife, $50,000 a month.
  • Redecorates the Duvalier's four bedroom suite in the big, white presidential palace closely guarded by police.
  • Builds a mausoleum intended for Baby Doc's father, Francis (Papa Doc) Duvalier, who ruled from 1957 to his death in 1971. Fortunately, says a diplomat, "good taste prevailed", and the mausoleum, in a park not far from the Place of Heroes of Independence, where homeless Haitians sleep under sheltering statues, has been turned into a public museum with an entry fee of $3.

In Haiti, where too many are malnourished, too many die in infancy, and too few have work or a place to sleep, expenditures on such frivolities cast a grim shadow on the government's already tarnished image. The "cap of the least developed" rests heavily here, only 700 miles from Miami.

The World Bank took a hard look at Haiti in mid-1985 and in a 201-page report, dated June 10 and inscribed "FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY," said:

  • Haiti's gross domestic product, the sum of the value of all the country's products and services, in fiscal 1984 was $1.8 billion, with a negative annual growth rate since fiscal 1980 of almost minus 1 percent.
  • Value added in agriculture in the five-year period (in constant 1976 prices) was down an average of 1.3 percent annually, valued added in industry down an average of 2.2 percent yearly.
  • Real wages in fiscal 1984 were down to 79. 1 percent of the last quarter of fiscal 1971-the standard minimum wage rate is now just under $3 a day.
  • The country's fiscal 1984 exports totaled $319 million, imports $526.9 million and net foreign reserves were minus $51 million, the lowest ever.

In flat bureaucratic language, the World Bank lambastes Baby Doc's regime and, by implication, the U.S. Government, chief support of the Haitian regime. The Bank says:

"Haiti's economy has suffered from stagnation and disequilibrium in recent years, despite considerable structural change... Economic growth has been well below its potential because of population pressure and inappropriate policy in agriculture; protection in industry; and insufficient tax revenues for expanding current public expenditures, resulting in public savings inadequate to finance the development effort. The short-term priority for public policy must be financial and economic stabilization."

The Bank goes on to offer its prescription.

Oddly, a great deal of what is in the Banks report came from U.S. sources, who have to play a sort of double game, currying the Haitian regime's favor in international forums so that it stays on "our side," and simultaneously deploring the excesses and corruption fostered by Duvalier's authoritarianism.

It is, for example, an open secret in Port-au-Prince that Ernest Bennett, the father of Michele Duvalier (often referred to as "Haiti's Eva Peron") has jumped from below the top 10 coffee exporters of Haiti to number-one exporter since his daughter married Baby Doc four years ago. Bennett's auto import firm, which brings in BMWs, has added Soviet-made Ladas and Nivas to its line, and he has opened Air Haiti, which flies to New York, round trip-$299.

Other palace favorites have done well, too. Over and over, the Bank's report refers to "corruption" and "extra-budgetary expenditures," without nailing down specifics. It is not difficult, however, to read between the lines.

The Bank's seven-member economic mission to Haiti found "significant" structural changes in the economy here in recent decades, changes that a repeat visitor sees with his own eyes.

The move has been away from agriculture, the Bank report says. Today agriculture makes up about a third of the

GDP, as opposed to half in the 1950s. There has also been a significant decline in agriculture exports as a percent of total exports, from 93 percent to 43 percent. With this decline has come a drop in agricultural employment, forcing thousands of Haitians to flee the country to find work, according to the Bank.

The flight of the Haitian farmer has increased the Haitian people's reliance on imported goods and the public sector. The consumption of imported products wastes precious currency and strains already over-extended budgets. A seven-ounce package of Kellogg's Special K costs $2.85, a two-quart bottle of Downy fabric softener $5.85 here.

Although the Haitian government has committed money to improve health and nutritional services, severe poverty remains.

  • "Recent estimates show a nationwide average caloric deficit of 14 percent and a protein deficit of 32 percent, compared to FAO/WHO recommended levels. These average deficits rose to 40 percent and 50 percent, respectively, in rural areas." The Bank says peasants "counter the decline in their purchasing power" by planting more and more food crops, selling more and more of them "at the expense of their own subsistence." They "overexploit" cultivated areas, ruining the land. As a result, "Malnutrition is worsening."
  • The infant mortality rate-the deaths in the first year of life-was 130 per 1,000 nationwide, and 200 per 1,000 in Port-au-Prince. In fact, "90 percent of deaths among 1-4 year-old children are caused by malnutrition and diarrheal diseases ...Between a quarter and a half of all Haitian children suffer from second or third degree malnutrition." "While the death rate has fallen somewhat, it remains higher than that in the rest of Latin America." The Haitian life expectancy is at least 10 years less than its neighbors in the Caribbean.
  • The adult literacy rate is 23 percent below African countries with similar per capita GDPs.

Papa Doc's 14-year rule, enforced by his terrifying secret police, the Tonton Macoutes, isolated Haiti from the Western World. U. S. aid was cut off for 10 of those years. Baby Doc's rule has been less harsh. The Tonton Macoutes were replaced by Volunteers for National Security (VSN), who haven't had quite the same predilection for maiming and murder as the Macoutes.

The resumption of U. S. aid in 1973, swiftly followed by international aid, helped the country. The Bank says:

"Structural change lifted Haiti's annual output and labor productivity growth rates to respectable international levels of 5 percent and 4.6 percent by the late 1970's. Both have since declined, however, reflecting two factors. First, agricultural output and productivity have fallen from their already stagnating levels of the late 1970's. Second, a new phenomenon has emerged with profound consequences for future growth and employment creation: Labor productivity outside agriculture has declined since fiscal 1980. Though the real GDP per capita did grow in fiscal 1984, for the first time in four years, it was still nine percent below its fiscal 1980 level."

The major cash crop of a majority of the peasants, who live on tiny farms on "steep hillsides," is coffee. "Yet," says the Bank, "coffee is subject to an export tax that represents half the producer price, reducing the incentive to grow coffee."

The result: Coffee exports have fallen in value from $90.9 million in fiscal 1980 to $53.8 million in fiscal 1984. That's partly a result of lower prices in the world market, but it's also a result of tonnage shipped dropping almost a quarter.

The Bank has been pounding the Haitian regime to remove the coffee export tax, along with export taxes on all other agricultural products. The response was a 10 percent cut in the coffee export tax in 1984, a further 15 percent for 1985, and elimination of the export tax on essential oils, from which perfume is made, in 1985. The taxes on cocoa and sisal remain, and the cut in the coffee tax may not have the desired effect. The Bank says "some studies have shown that oligopoly is present among [coffee] marketing intermediaries and/or exporters, which means that the bulk of a tax reduction would accrue as unearned rent to the oligopolists" - in short, the middlemen will simply make more money from the export tax cut, leaving the farmers as poor as ever.

No other crop cocoa, cotton, corn, rice, sugar or mangoes-comes close to earning what coffee does. Yet Haiti's coffee exports are half what they were in 1900. The Haitian coffee grower gets only about half the price of his crop; the Costa Rican coffee grower gets more than two thirds.

"Agriculture has slowly and inexorably deteriorated for 30 years and per capita agricultural production has declined regularly," says the Bank. "The problem in industry, by contrast, is much more recent. Manufacturing output grew at a very rapid 10 percent yearly in real terms throughout the 1970's. It has since declined sharply, in part because of the global recession of fiscal 1981-83 but more fundamentally because of the consequences of protection is characterized by stagnant protected importsubstitution industries and a growing export assembly subsector; only the latter was responsible for possible growth in fiscal 1984."

The protected industries are food products, beverages, tobacco, textiles, leather, chemicals, plastics and rubber products. "None has done well since fiscal 1980," the Bank says. They have "high production costs because of unutilzed capacity, poor management, outdated equipment... lack global competitiveness, cannot export or sell to other export industries, and cause excessive dependence on imports of the intermediate products they need."

Haiti's regime has increasingly provided "tax exemptions to investors and exporters to stimulate industrial growth." The assembly industry sprang up here in the 1970's because 2,500 items could enter the U.S. duty-free, if at least 35 percent of their value was added in Haiti (or other countries covered by the Generalized System of Preferences). The Caribbean Basin Initiative is simply an extension of the same principle.

Baseballs and softballs are the best-known assembly industry here. Seven companies, one independent and six divisions of much larger corporations, keep hundreds of women stitching balls at around $3 a day. (See "Un-sporting Multinationals," this issue.)

Jule Tomar, who runs the independent Home of Champions company, says he employs 350 persons who manufacture 400 to 500 dozen balls daily. The Camden, N. J. native has been operating in Haiti since 1953-first in sisal sandals, then high-fashion shoes, and since 1973 in baseballs.

For some assembly industries it has been difficult to assimilate in Haiti. General Mills, says Tomar, "didn't adapt" to Haitian ways. General Mills is the current ogre on the Haitian business scene. It arrived in late 1983 to assemble stuffed toys through its subsidiary, General Mills Products Haiti. Its factory employed more than 200 persons, had a payroll of $600,000 a year, and subcontracted work to other firms with about 1,000 employees. But as of Nov. 1, 1985, at a cost of around $1 million, it pulled out of Haiti, claiming:

  • Haitian customs employees were careless, damaging many sealed boxes.
  • Theft by a local warehouse manager in the order of $30,000 worth of goods, with no follow-up by police.
  • More than 10 percent of 225,000 plush-filled items failed to meet quality control standards. The Haitian subcontractor manufacturing these items removed the company's property and sued the company for breach of contract. He also froze General Mills' Haitian Bank account.
  • The company was forced to pay off workers of another subcontractor whose contract it terminated.

But the Haitian subcontractors say this was all a sham on the part of a $9 billion-a-year Minnesota-based company. They say General Mills had made a decision early in 1985 to pull out of the toys and fashion business entirely in order to invest $1.5 billion in food products in the next few years.

Tomar says the giant corporation never learned how to do business "Haitian-style."

Other companies have. GTE, for example, reportedly plans to expand its large operation here, and other electronics firms now assemble transformers, coils, complex circuits and wiring harnesses in Haitian plants.

"Quality control is excellent and output per man hour is approaching that of Singapore," says the Bank. The problem is that "the export assembly industries can buy very little from local industries because the latter's prices are high and quality is low." Another problem: "A severe shortage of middle-level managers, supervisors and skilled technical workers," is a result of Haiti's continuing "brain drain." There are more Haitian doctors in the U.S. than in Haiti.

Consequently, says the Bank, the regime's "revenues from these assembly industries are practically nill because of the generous tax exemptions." Materials for these industries are shipped in from the United States, assembled here and shipped back to the U.S., duty-free. The only benefit to the Haitian economy is the creation of 50,000 $3-an-hour jobs. That's a drop in the bucket for a labor force of more than 2.5 million people.

Indeed, that labor force could include considerably more people, if children who should be in school, but are actually looking for work, are included. Many Haitian children get little or no schooling. The 1983 figures show a total of 723,041 pupils in primary and secondary schools, more than half of whom were in private-mostly church-operated-schools. In the same year only 117,081 children were in secondary schools (over 97,000 in private schools). That means that between the ages of 10 and 14 most Haitian children must go to work, even if only as "tiny touts" harassing tourists for a gourde or two on the street.

The gourde is the official Haitian currency, and has been pegged at five to the U.S. dollar since 1919. But the dollar is also legal currency in Haiti, and is eagerly desired. The regime forces all Haitian exporters to deposit half of their dollar receipts in the central bank, in what is becoming an increasingly vain gesture to prop up Haiti's foreign reserves.

A "parallel market" has sprung up in downtown Port-au-Prince in recent months with hustlers tugging at the coats of anyone suspected of having dollars, in an effort to sell six or more gourdes for a dollar.

"Tourism could be a major foreign exchange earner and source of growth," says the World Bank, noting Haiti's "attractive beaches, clear coral waters and a pleasant sunny climate" and its "unique blend of African heritage, French colonial influence and present-day Caribbean lifestyles."

But tourism has sagged badly. In 1980 the total number of travelers arriving in Haiti was 306,500; in 1984 the total was 214,600. The biggest decline was in cruise ship passengers, down from 162,600 to 93,000. The drop meant a fall off in net dollars produced by tourism from almost $36 million in 1980 to $28 million in 1984. Hotel-keepers remain pessimistic, and Michel-Ange Voltaire, director-general of Haiti's tourist board, notes that about 45 percent of travelers arriving by plane aren't really tourists: They are Haitians visiting their families, people on religious missions or businesspeople. Only the latter group spend somewhat the way tourists do.

Voltaire attributes some of the decline to "the AIDS scare of three years ago," but he's candid enough to concede the drop began before the AIDS panic. He complains he doesn't have a big enough ad budget, only $400,000 compared to the millions such Caribbean destinations as Jamaica, Barbados and the U.S. Virgin Islands throw around. But the World Bank says: "Were there a long-run vision, Haiti might have a more successful and internationally competitive tourist trade."

The Bank says "the potential is there in agriculture, agro-industry, industry, tourism. It has not been realized because society at all levels has ignored the long term."

The authoritarian regime, says the Bank, "has had different priorities, which have swollen its employment rolls but not its revenue" -government employees jumped from 28,056 in 1980 to 32,385 in 1984.

"Tax revenues have remained low as a proportion of GDP," says the Bank. The reasons:

  • The potential tax base has grown very slowly because the economy is stagnating; worse, the regime has given "widespread exemptions from both taxes and tariffs... perception has been voiced that individual companies negotiate individual tax concessions with the Ministry of Finance, even after expiration of those granted by law"-in short, bribes have been paid.
  • Too many imports are exempt from taxes and the regime has "continued to grant 'franchises,' effectively monopoly duty-free import rights, so that import duties have fallen while merchandise imports increased."
  • "Internal tax collection remains very poor, especially for personal and corporate income taxes and for the sales tax."
  • There are "too many taxes, charges and fees... rates tend to be unrealistically high," encouraging evasion.
  • Tax evasion and fraud are widespread. For example, "only 17 individuals declared personal income over $40,000" in fiscal 1984. "Yet the World Bank estimated as long ago as 1978 that there were then 4,000 families in Haiti with an average annual income exceeding $90,000."

Result: The regime's revenues are stuck at "around one-tenth of GDP. This compares very unfavorably to an average of 16.7 percent for countries with 1981 per capita incomes below $400:'

In a fiscal 1985 budget of $190 million, nearly $20 million goes to the armed forces, another $8-plus million to "interior and defense," $6.4 million to "information and public relations," nearly $8 million to "foreign affairs" and $3.2 million to the "presidency of the republic." Spending for the armed forces is almost identical to spending for public education, and more than spending for health. The only obvious use for the armed forces is within Haiti.

But the biggest single item in the 1985 budget is $51.8 million earmarked for the "amortization fund"-to service debts, to keep the wolf from the door.

In 1982 the regime negotiated a standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the $34.5 million in special drawing rights because the worldwide recession had put the Haitian economy into a tailspin. The regime agreed to spending cuts and revenue increases and this tough fiscal medicine worked for a while. But there was no follow-through and the IMF agreement's 15-month term was too short to restore full equilibrium. Now Baby Doc's government is seeking another standby agreement with the IMF, again at favorable terms. Negotiations are just starting.

By the end of fiscal 1984 Haiti's external medium- and long-term debt stood at $676.6 million, up from $411.2 million in fiscal 1980. The country's chief resource is its ability to wrangle grants and concessional loans from rich nations and the international bodies funded by these nations, primarily the United States. In fiscal 1984 the total of this "free money" available to Haiti was $155 million, compared to $87 million in 1980. More than half of these sums were outright grants.

"The trends of the past cannot be allowed to continue," the Bank says.

Short-term, Baby Doc's regime "can do little more than redress the fragile financial situation"-balance the budget by more efficient administration, halt government waste, plan ahead. Haitians laugh and tell American visitors, "that is the same prescription you ought to use for the U.S. Government."

In the long term, the World Bank says "Haiti's development strategy has very few degrees of freedom. It will have to be export-oriented. Consumption, especially that of the public sector, will have to be markedly restrained in order to limit the growth of consumer goods imports and to shift most of GDP growth into exports. .. Haiti will continue to need substantial inflows of external assistance on the best possible terms."

Even with dozens of its specific recommendations put into effect, the World Bank projects only a modest annual growth rate of 3.1 percent from 1986 through 1991, with GDP reaching $2.4 billion in the latter year.

Last September, say U.S. diplomats, was "encouraging" -Baby Doc's regime actually balanced its budget for a month.

But a month is not the long haul. Personal and political considerations impinge on the best-laid plans of economists, especially in authoritarian regimes. The United States is holding Baby Doc's hand; so is the World Bank, other international agencies and private, U.S.-backed organizations.

American motives are clear enough. They are a mixture of idealism and political realism, with an occasional over-the-shoulder glance at Cuba, only 60 miles away from Haiti's northwest tip. The pressure is on Baby Doc to loosen up, to "democratize" his government and to provide more effective management. No one mentions that between 1843 and 1914 Haiti had 24 presidents, only one of whom served his entire term-or that the 1915 assassination of President S.D. Sam brought in the U.S. Marines.

Today a Marine landing is unlikely. But the United States knows Haiti must get its house in order. The more important question is: Does Baby Doc know it?

William Steif is a freelance writer currently based in the Virgin Islands.

Killing Dissent

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti-President-for-Life JeanClaude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, 34, is in charge of the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, as a hotelkeeper underlines by gesturing to a large portrait of Baby Doc and his wife, Michele, above the hotel reception desk.

"That's my insurance policy," says the hotel-keeper, smiling.

Baby Doc's authoritarian rule has not been as harsh as that of his father, Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier, who ruled from 1957 until his death in 1971. There have been ups and downs, but Baby Doc's style runs more to exile than to political killing.

The last big exile was in mid-November, 1980, when 50 Haitians, many of them journalists, were thrown out of the country. Baby Doc had read the U.S. Presidential election returns wrongly, thinking that Ronald Reagan would scrap President Carter's human rights policy. Reagan softened it, preferring the term "democratization," but couldn't afford to get rid of it altogether.

So Baby Doc's regime has loosened up a bit, too, allowing - within well-understood limits - publication of four independent "opposition" weeklies and paying lip-service to democracy by making it possible to organize an "opposition" political party. The mechanics for opposition parties to Duvalier's Progressive National Party were embodied in constitutional changes put before Haitians last July in a "referendum. The changes were approved by 99.98 percent of the voters in what was widely regarded as a polling farce.

Opposition leaders denounced the referendum because one of the requirements to form an opposition party legally was to subscribe to the legitimacy of the presidency-for-life concept established by Papa Doc-in short, the Duvaliers would be implanted in power indefinitely.

But one opposition leader, Gregoire Eugene, who originally denounced the presidency-for-life requirement, has now asked the regime to register his Social Christian Party legally. He says he began thinking in early fall that if the presidency-for-life idea were "put to one side they might accept a compromise."

Eugene, 60, is a lawyer, teacher and one time justice minister, who returned from U.S. exile in February, 1984. He says his party would be "moderate, democratic and non-violent," acting as a "watchdog" on the regime "to make the government work better."

He presented his demand in mid-November to JeanMarie Chanoine, Minister of Interior and Defense in Baby Doc's new super-cabinet, and was not turned down. Chanoine, the most powerful figure in the new government, says only that he's still "negotiating."

Eugene's goal is to run candidates for all 59 seats of the rubber-stamp National Assembly in an election scheduled for February, 1987.

The U.S. Embassy, which must submit a human rights report to Congress about Haiti every six months, tends to take a slightly more optimistic view on the situation here than others. In its latest, mid-October report, the embassy says "the human rights situation continued generally to improve gradually during the period under review, though not without some serious exceptions." The embassy adds there was "a clear trend away from physical abuse and toward the fulfillment of legal mechanisms. "Among the exceptions:

  • On April 23, 1985, two persons were shot and killed trying "to flee while being arrested for distributing political pamphlets," according to the regime. The embassy's "private sources" say the pair were killed while in detention at the Port-au-Prince prison.
  • Baby Dow on April 20 granted "amnesty" to 37 "political and state security prisoners" and the regime said no political prisoners remained in custody. But 11 other detainees "were not accounted for" and there have been further detentions since April 29, 1985.
  • Two days before the July referendum police arrested six persons, including two "independent journalists" and the son of an opposition politician "for conspiring to circulate illegal publications." The six were freed a few days later, unharmed.
  • In mid-September the regime halted Hubert Deronceray, an ex-cabinet member now in opposition, from making a public appearance in his home town, Petit-Goave. He and five colleagues were taken to Port-au-Prince, questioned and freed late the same day.
  • In mid-October a well-known Haitian exile, Dr. Lionel Laine, appeared in Carrefour, just outside the capital, and, according to the regime, tried to start an uprising. He was shot and killed and a dozen accomplices were jailed.

In late November of this year, during a demonstration to commemorate the November 28, 1980 crackdown, troops came into the town of Gonaives, injured 15 and killed three. The three that were killed, though on school property, were not even attending the rally. The following day when students across the country threatened a national boycott because of the deaths, the government said the three were mistakenly killed and closed the schools for a national day of mourning.

The most publicized and far-reaching exception to the softening trend probably was the expulsion of three Belgian priests in July, right after the referendum. One of the priests was news director of Radio Soleil, operated here by the Haitian Bishops' Conference. Radio Soleil, in a country nearly 80 percent illiterate, is the chief source of news because it uses parish priests as correspondents. The seven Haitian bishops also had reservations about the referendum in this overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country and wrote a commentary for delivery from pulpits across the nation just before the referendum. The regime banned delivery from pulpits so the bishops broadcast the commentary on Radio Soleil. As a result, the station's Father Triest, and two other outspoken priests, all members of the Scheut Fathers order, were expelled immediately.

Father Jean Hanssens, superior of the Scheut order, says the regime "does not really trust the church. No one feels at ease. The government fears the church and all expectations of change are carried by the church, which is seen by the government as possible opposition, even if it isn't planned that way. The relationship is very sensitive."

Radio Soleil's power was cut just before the referendum and wasn't restored until a month later. Now the station is broadcasting again and a government spokesman, Director-General Guy Mayer of the Information Ministry, says "all is tranquil." But some edginess remains.

- William Steif

Bitter Fruit - Mangoes With the EDB

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti-The U.S. State Department has overridden the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule forbidding the use of ethylene dibromide (EDB), a known carcinogen, on mangoes exported to the United States from Haiti.

Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, will also be allowed to continue to ship mangos sprayed with EDB to the United States for at least another year. EDB is used by shippers to kill fruitflies which lay eggs in the mangoes and thus ruin them.

"Use of EDB is not allowed at all in the U.S.," says David Tollett, a U.S. Agriculture Department official stationed in Haiti. He says the EPA has banned it completely, noting "we used to use it on citrus going to Japan but not now."

EDB is an extremely potent carcinogen and mutagen that also damages male and female fertility. It has been found to cause cancer "in numerous sites in the body, and in unusually high numbers with little exposure" in several species, according to Pesticide Action Network, an international coalition of citizens' groups concerned about the misuse of pesticides. The EPA barred the chemical's use in Haiti starting last Sept. 1, and Haitian exporters, who shipped more than 1.6 million cases of the fruit to the U.S. last year, feared their prime market would disappear. The Haitians took their case to Washington, D.C., according to Tollett, and began lobbying for a delay in the ban.

Word of EPA's reversal came in a mid-November "communique" issued by Haitian Economics Minister Frantz Merceron, who said "the combined efforts of the Haitian Government, the private sector and concerned American officials" had persuaded the EPA to permit another 12 to 24 months in which EDB-treated mangoes could be sent to the U.S.

Merceron said with the lifting of the ban Jan. 1, 1986, the Haitians would be able to add $5 million to $8 million to their export earnings, helping to cut the Caribbean nation's balance of payments deficit and creating rural jobs.

The U.S. Embassy official says he expects protests from Florida and Puerto Rican mango growers, still barred from using EDB, but says the State Department sought the lifting of the ban, the U.S. Agriculture Department went along "and EPA agreed."

Tollett and two U.S. Embassy officials say "the residual level" of EDB on the fruit is only 30 parts per billion and all agree the EDB continues to dissipate in the air within a week of spraying so that no trace is left.

"It's not a health hazard," one Embassy official says, despite the fact that it is banned in the United States, severely restricted in several countries, and considered perhaps the most potent cancer-causing pesticide tested by the U.S. EPA.

EDB will be used for 18 months, by which time "the hot-dip method should be perfected," according to the U.S. embassy.

The U.S. Agriculture Department is working on a way to dip mangoes into hot water so that the fruitflies and their eggs are killed but the fruit is unharmed. Another method, irradiation, leaves mangoes "mushy," according to one of the Embassy experts.

Mangoes, according to an economic trends report compiled by the U.S. Embassy at the end of 1984, "are the big success story in Haiti's agricultural exports." Haitian shippers "have capitalized on an increased preference of U.S. consumers for fresh tropical fruit to boost exports in 1984 to $5 million from a level of only hundreds of thousands of dollars in the 1970's." Today, Haiti is the world's fourth largest mango exporter. Mexico, Guatemala and Belize also have pushed their mango exports.

The fruit grows wild on tiny Haitian farms, usually made up of less than two acres, and used to rot on the ground. Now a well-organized collection network brings the mangoes to a Port-au-Prince warehouse, from which they are shipped by air to the United States. The chief mango season is from early January through April. Next to coffee, mangoes have become Haiti's biggest agricultural export, putting money into the pockets of small farmers whose cash income rarely exceeds $250 a year.

- William Steif

Haitan Exodus

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti-The number of Haitians caught trying to leave their country in leaky boats turned sharply upward in fiscal 1985.

John K. Colvin, U.S. Coast Guard representative at the U.S. Embassy here, says a total of 3,362 Haitians were found at sea by the Coast Guard between Oct. 1, 1984 and Sept. 30, 1985, and "repatriated:"

That represents 62 percent of the 5,423 Haitians caught in small sailboats since the Reagan Administration began the Haitian Migrant Interdiction Operation (HMIO) on Oct. 1, 1981.

"Some have tried it three times," says Colvin.

The deteriorating economic situation in the country, leaving many Haitians worse off than they were four or five years ago, is causing increasing numbers of poor Haitians to look to the United States for jobs.

HMIO was started as a "temporary" patrol program because 22,000 Haitians had embarked in small boats on the dangerous, 700-mile sail to Florida in the 18 months prior to Oct. 1, 1981. The HMIO costs $16 to $17 million to administer yearly.

One Coast Guard cutter is stationed permanently northwest of Haiti, in the Windward Passage between Haiti and Cuba. Others based in Guantanamo, Cuba, join the patrol from time to time.

Hundreds of Haitians not caught by the patrol have drowned, according to Colvin, when their small boats foundered and sank. He says the going price for getting onto a smuggler's boat is now "up to $2,000 a head," with smugglers selling from 70 to 100 places in a 40-foot sailboat. The departing Haitians "don't understand the dangers," he says. "The boats are barely floatable and have to have a constant bucket brigade. As soon as the Haitians stop bailing, the boats sink."

In June, 1984, a Haitian boat with 70 to 75 persons aboard capsized as the Coast Guard unloaded it and six persons drowned, including an interpreter for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

Colvin concedes some Haitians get to Florida by boat-about 1,500 who'd sailed there in the past four years have been caught and others are believed to be leading the lives of illegal aliens. All Haitians stopped at sea are interviewed immediately by an INS official through a Creole-speaking interpreter. They're asked why they left Haiti and the answer, says Colvin, "is that they're going for work-always."

He says there's never been a claim for asylum because of political persecution. Political refugees can be admitted into the U.S. but not "economic" refugees.

The Haitians are returned here and turned over to the Red Cross, which provides transport home. A quarter of those returned are interviewed six months later, says Colvin; Haiti's authoritarian regime "has never harassed or persecuted them."

There is 'no pattern" to the boat-people's comings and goings, says Colvin, "only surges up and down." He says that lately a majority of those caught have been from Haiti's northwest.

HMIO 'originally was short-term," says Colvin. "But now it's an open-ended arrangement for us, I don't know how it'll ever end."

- William Steif

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