Mainstream Media Discover Fight for Haiti’s Ile a Vache
Dady Chery

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UPDATE 1: April 7, 2014. Reuters has now published its own lies about the Ile a Vache story. So much for mainstream news. The journalist from Reuters contacted us at New Junkie Post, and we ignored him, knowing that his article would be a hatchet job. We are quite glad we did not waste any of our time on him.

It’s the same old story about Haiti: first, they call you “dirt poor” or “the poorest country in the western hemisphere” and then they rip you off. This particular journalist asserts that the residents of Ile a Vache are “dirt poor.” They are not dirt-poor, but they surely will be if their lands (i.e. dirts) are stolen and they’re banned from fishing as part of this oh-so-promising tourism “development.”

The mainstream press believes that if it repeats a lie often enough and loudly enough, the lie will become true. Some of the lies in this particular story:

  • (1) The Ile a Vache residents are poor. Wrong! The Ile a Vache residents are well fed from their own farming, ranching, and fishing, and they live quite comfortably in houses that their families have owned for about 100 years.
  • (2) The population of Ile a Vache is 14,000. Wrong! It is about 20,000.
  • (3) The population is involved with drug traffickers. Wrong! The only people in Haiti who have ever been involved with drug traffickers are government people and the country’s rich families.
  • (4) The tourism development will create jobs for Ile a Vache people. Wrong! It will create very few jobs; they will be minimum-wage jobs for about 54 cents/hour, and they will be farmed out to people who are not from Ile a Vache.
  • (5) The islanders first learned of the… project when it appeared on the website of the Tourism Ministry last year. Wrong! The islanders first learned about the project when construction companies started digging up their neighborhoods in September 2013.
  • (6) Fritz Cesar is the island’s mayor. Wrong! Fritz Cesar is an interim governor directly appointed by Michel Martelly. All of Haiti’s elected mayors were dismissed by Martelly in 2012.
  • (7) Abraham Lincoln sent freed slaves to Ile a Vache to found a colony. Wrong! The freed slaves were brought to Ile a Vache to cut wood for one of Lincoln’s friends and be re-enslaved away from prying eyes.

Finally, Reuters writes that “a popular local policeman and community leader was jailed for participating in one protest,” as if the man’s name is difficult to find, and as if he was jailed and released. His name is Jean Matulnes Lamy; he has been kept, not in jail but in prison, without charge or trial, since February 25, 2014.

By Dady Chery
Haiti Chery

One year after a Haitian government decree to appropriate the lands of the farmers on the offshore island of Ile a Vache, and more than two months since the islanders began to take their protests to the streets, Le Nouvelliste, a conservative Haitian newspaper established in 1898, has discovered that it should give us news of Ile a Vache. There are not 15,000 residents as Le Nouvelliste says, but closer to 20,000, as projected from a 2003 census. And there are not 50 policemen, but more than 115 militarized police. And what do we learn? That everything that happened is due to a communication problem. This brings to mind the Haitian proverb: Li pale franse! [He is speaking French! (He is obfuscating in French.)] Must we presume that the correct solution is for the Haitian government to speak yet more French before it continues its pillage?

Ileavache_fishermenThe Associated Press (AP) discovered the trouble on Ile a Vache on the same day as Le Nouvelliste and interviewed the same people. A coincidence, I’m sure. As ever, the AP story is largely from the point of view of power. AP neglected to report anything about the police presence on the island. Again: the lie that there are 15,000 residents on the island. Why? The Haitian population is estimated to grow at a rate of 6.66 percent per year, and based on a census in 2003, projections put the Ile a Vache population already at 14,004 in 2009. Therefore, about 20,000 people would live on the island in 2014. Might the consistently low population estimate of 15,000 in the mainstream news be intended to hide a planned depopulation of the island?

Haiti’s Prime Minister, Laurent Lamothe, found a receptive medium in AP for his campaign to defame Mr. Jean Maltunes Lamy, the Vice President of the Organization of Ile à Vache Farmers (Konbit Peyizan Ile a Vache, or KOPI), who has been imprisoned without charge or trial since February 25, 2014. AP repeated, without proof, that the organizers of the protests on the island are associated with drug traffickers, although the islanders are not being instigated by anyone and have merely picked their own representatives, one of these being Mr. Matulnes Lamy. AP should know that every case of drug trafficking in Haiti that has ever been uncovered has involved the government or Haiti’s rich families, and not a single one has ever involved a farmer.

JeanMatulnesLamy_bThe government told AP and Le Nouvelliste that no one will be expelled, although maps of its plans show otherwise. But even if the mainstream media do not bother with such details, it is easy to calculate that a 20-square-mile island with already 20,000 residents cannot accommodate 2,000 new hotel rooms, 2,500 new villas and as many bungalows, plus a new community center, spas, restaurants, bars, cafes, a school to train hotel workers, etc., and still find room for the locals.

Ileavache_map_tourismplans_bAs for the ecological consciousness of those who promote this project: how can there be any merit to dredging a virgin coast for a port and razing a forest for an airport, for the sake of ecotourism?

The Prime Minister told AP that 2,000 jobs would be created, and this is certainly a high estimate, but that is not the most important point. Given that in Haiti, people who work for wages earn the minimum wage of 54 cents per hour at best, how can one boost an economy by grabbing the lands and beaches used by small farmers/fishermen and forcing them to work as wage slaves? You certainly do not help the economy of the farmers and fishermen. You certainly do not help Haiti’s economy. The only economy you help is yours and that of your investor friends and the international banks.

For a lesson on disinformation, compare these mainstream articles to reports in the alternative news and social media, including the original local stories from Radyo VKM and AlterPresse, plus my own story about Ile a Vache and regular updates since January 2014, regular video and radio reports in Haitian Creole from Hugues Girard and Jafrikayiti, stories in English, Creole, and French from Ezili Danto and Bookmanlit.

Sources: Haiti Chery | News Junkie Post | Le Nouvelliste | AP

One comment on “Mainstream Media Discover Fight for Haiti’s Ile a Vache

  1. Pingback: The Fight for Haiti’s Ile a Vache: An Exclusive Interview With Abaka Bay’s Robert Dietrich | Nancy Roc

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