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$449,965 in NED/State Department funding for ACILS ‘Solidarity Center’ Program with Batay Ouvriye


[Editor's note: This is in response to a letter to the editor by Batay Ouvriye about Sprague and Emersberger's article on the Lancet Study on Haiti. In Batay Ouvriye's letter, we noted that there was no mention of the tragic implications of the Lancet study: 8,000 deaths and 35,000 rapes, most of which are attributable to the coup. It would be a shame if the implications of this study are lost in the debate.]

The most prominent international labor organizations active in Haiti, the ICFTU, AFL-CIO, ILO, and ORIT, working to support and strengthen labor organizations that agitated for the ousting of Haiti’s democratically elected government, have simultaneously refused to condemn the massive layoffs and persecution of public sector workers and trade unionists committed by its illegally-imposed successor (the interim government of Gerald Latortue). These labor institutions have chosen only to work with labor organizations that agitated for the ouster of the Aristide government, such as the the Coordination Syndicale Haïtienne (CSH), the Group of 184 labor front which they were instrumental in constructing, and the Batay Ouvriye.  In June of 2006 Labor Notes Magazine revealed that the Batay Ouvriye is the current recipient of an American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS) Program with a total NED/State Department funding of $449,956.  ACILS is also known as the Solidarity Center.  The following provides greater detail in regards to this funding/program relationship.  For more context read the June 2006 LABOR NOTES article: Failed Solidarity: The ICFTU, AFL-CIO, ORIT, and ILO in Haiti.  <http://labornotes.org/archives/2006/06/articles/f.shtml>

#1.

The NED has a $99,965 grant with ACILS (Solidarity Center) to work with the “May 1st Union Federation – Batay Ouvriye.” 

The grant states: “American Center for International Solidarity $99,965. To promote the development and capacity of democratic unions in free trade zones. ACILS will work with the May 1st Union Federation- Batay Ouvriye to train workers to organize and educate fellow workers. Training will include developing organizational plans, networking with workers outside their factories, forming community and factory unions, and researching and monitoring working conditions. Finally, NGOs and trade unions from the U.S. and Canada will visit to discuss working conditions in Haiti.”  http://inthenameofdemocracy.org/en/node/8
< http://www.ned.org/grants/05programs/grants-lac05.html#Haiti>

#2.

The US State Department has a $350,000 grant with ACILS for its program with the Batay Ouvriye.  The Solidarity Center acknowledges that its officials began meeting with Batay Ouvriye in 2004. Also see below excerpts of a November 2006 recorded interview with Solidarity Center officials:

Teresa Casertano: The solidarity center has 2 grants that are working in Haiti. One grant was awarded in May of 2005 and the 2nd is the NED grant for September 2005. Those are the only grants that we have for the Haiti work between 2000 and 2006. That May 2005 grant is from the anti-sweatshop fund from the democracy rights and labor department of the U.S. Department of State. Harry Kamberis: Democracy, human rights, and labor bureau of the Department of State…Question: How much was that for? Teresa Casertano: $350,000…Question: I’m just curious why the solidarity center has not spoken out against these massive layoffs [of trade unionists following the coup]? Teresa Casertano: The executive council made a statement on haiti following feb 2004 [Note from the authors: The statement did not mention the persecution of trade unionist nor the specific persecution of trade unionist supporters of the ousted government. It made no mention of the massive layoffs. It made no mention of the persecution, jailings, death threats, and attacks on workers of the CTH, FTPH, and other labor organizations]. We make public statements. We make plenty of statements…Harry Kamberis: The solidarity center works very closely with the ICFTU who represents the voice of labor around the world… [note from the authors: The ICFTU and it's fraternal organization ORIT helped found the CSH, which would later become the labor component of the Group of 184 and agitated for Arisitde's ouster.]

#3

Charles Arthur, director of the Haiti Support Group (HSG) acknowledges that the HSG works with the Batay Ouvriye, which is often featured on its website.  Labor organizations that supported Haiti’s constitutional government and were heavily persecuted following the 2004 coup have been completely ignored by the HSG.

#4.

One of Batay Ouvriye’s main speakers, Paul Philomé, at a tape recorded March 2004 Batay Ouvriye meeting with a Quixote Center Delegation explained, Batay Ouvriye, “..had worked to denounce all of the plans that the Fanmi Lavalas government had, we denounced them and fought to make sure those plans were not successful, and we also took positions so the government can leave the country..” Two months prior to the coup, the Batay Ouvriye declared “Down with the blood thirsty Lavalas thieves, criminals!”  See <http://www.batayouvriye.org/English/Positions1/decsituation.html>

#5

On January 9, 2006 the Batay Ouvriye acknowledged part of its ongoing program with the Solidarity Center, after the release of classified NED grant documents obtained by Canadian researcher Anthony Fenton and published on the website inthenameofdemocracy.org.  Following the publication of the documents the Batay Ouvriye responded, “…it appears Haiti’s Batay Ouvriye union may be a ‘targeted beneficiary’ for $100,000 this year, through the Solidarity Center which solicited the NED.”  See <http://www.batayouvriye.org/English/Positions1/smokinggun.html>

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Joe Emesberger is a writer living in Canada with an interest in Haiti. Jeb Sprague is a graduate student and freelance journalist. Visit his blog at http://www.freehaiti.net

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