Feb 20 2010 Wales Online
The Haitian government will seize land to build temporary camps for earthquake victims in a controversial new move, prime minister Jean-Max Bellerive said.
The decision is potentially explosive in a country where a small elite owns most of the land in and around the capital Port-au-Prince.
That elite, a traditionally corrupting force in Haitian politics, has the power to bring down the government.
The government owned some land but not enough, Mr Bellerive said, and he had no choice but to take over private terrain.
He would not say how much land will be appropriated.
A report posted at the website of the International Organisation for Migration yesterday said a minimum of 1,112 acres of flat, non-flood plain land was needed to settle 100,000 displaced people and Haiti’s government had identified only 47 acres.
The January 12 quake left 1.2 million homeless, about half of them in Port-au-Prince, meaning the government would need to find a total of at least 6,672 acres for quake survivors in the capital, where about a third of Haiti’s nearly 10 million people are concentrated, along with the government and almost all industry.
Bernard Fils-Aime, a businessman, property owner and president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Haiti, said he was not aware of anyone in the business community being approached by the government about land.
“Land is one of our very scarce resources and an issue that has underlined many political conflicts in Haiti since independence,” he said.
He said he was sure the issue could be negotiated amicably but warned: “You don’t want to create more conflict.”
Aid agencies have criticised the government for dragging its feet on the thorny land issue as relief agencies work against the clock to find temporary settlements for the homeless before the spring rainy season.
Human Rights Watch said Friday “there is little evidence that meaningful efforts have been made to negotiate the land acquisition and secure proper land titles. It is essential that this be given priority” and that any appropriations “be done in a non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory manner”.
Oxfam International warned last week that “the temporary camps where people have congregated are fast becoming overcrowded slums”.
“The government … needs to clarify whether there is government land available or if it needs to confiscate private land instead. These decisions need to be taken quickly,” the charity said.
Impromptu camps have sprung up on every bit of available land – school and university grounds, public gardens, a golf course, the central Champ de Mars plaza or simply on pavements. But the camps, many made of little more than bedsheets propped up by sticks, have little sanitation and early sporadic downpours are already adding to the misery of their residents.
Health workers warn the rains can bring disease in the camps – something Haiti’s already strained health system can hardly handle.
Haitian law allowed the government to seize land as long as it is in the public interest and the owners are fairly compensated, said lawyer Benissoit Jude Detournel, who handles property disputes.
“There has to be a just and equitable indemnity, taking into account the market value of the property,” he said. But he said setting a price was difficult in the quake’s aftermath.
In and around Port-au-Prince, most land is owned by the 11 families generally referred to as “the elite” who have business monopolies and control the government through corruption, said Reginald Abraham, a Haitian-American property developer.
“They embed with the government, they decide what’s going to happen to the land. They have the government blocking people like me who want to come home and help rebuild Haiti,” he said.
Meanwhile in Florida, pop stars Emilio and Gloria Estefan and other celebrities gathered to record a Spanish-language version of We Are The World to raise money for Haiti earthquake victims.
Emilio Estefan said he was talking to Quincy Jones about the importance of the Spanish market when the idea developed.
“You know, Latinos always want to do things in a positive way, to show the world that even we come from different places, we wanted to definitely help,” he said. “I think now is the best time because people forget.”
Actor Andy Garcia, who was also participating, said: “You wish you wouldn’t have to do a fund raiser for Haiti. It’s going to need attention for quite some time … It’s not just a question of raising money today and everything is going to be all right.”
Other singers recording the track include Banda El Recodo, Carlos Santana, Chayanne, David Archuleta, Carlos Santana and Jose Feliciano.
The song, Somos El Mundo, was adapted by the Estefans, who partnered Jones, Univision and the non-profit We Are The World Foundation to gather the artists to record the song. Univision is underwriting, co-producing distributing the song, which goes on sale in March.
Human Rights Watch said Friday “there is little evidence that meaningful efforts have been made to negotiate the land acquisition and secure proper land titles.
In fact, there have been no plans at all!
This is all part of President Preval’s attempt to derail all efforts to assist Haiti’s traumatized population. While this may seem bizarre, it is a cynical effort to create chaos; The chaos Preval requires in order to retain power beyond the legal termination of his presidency, February 7, 2011.
Much of Port-au-Prince was destroyed by the Quake. A program was created that would see structures inspected for damage.
Those that must be demolished would be listed.
What the public, and International Community, does not know is that Preval/Bellerive have stopped all action with regard to the demolition of ruined real estate. They have placed the salvation in limbo, in Port-au-Prince, and the rest of the country.
The suggestion that Bellerive/Preval plan to grab land under the concept of eminent domain could be suicidal. If Preval had any sense, he would take the $90,000,000 he has just stolen, from the Venezuelan funds, and buy the land himself – gifting it to the people of Haiti.
Preval must be careful, otherwise we might have a State Funeral. The so-called elite families don’t mess around. Some of them have killed those who stood in their way for much lesser things.
Somehow the International Community must recognize the truth and force the issue.
But Preval does not like the Haitian People and the Haitian People despise Preval.
If the Nation is to have any chance at survival, President Rene Garcia Preval, alcoholic, torturer, murderer, kidnapper, embezzler, incompetent and ex-New York taxi driver must fade into history, or prison when judged for the multiplicity of his criminal acts.
Perhaps he, Elisabeth Delatour and Jacques Alexis can share a jail cell.