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#5187: This Week in Haiti 18:28 9/27/2000 (fwd)
From: "K. M. Ives" <email@example.com>
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
September 27 - October 3, 2000
Vol. 18, No. 28
MOTHER OF TWO, DEPORTED TO HAITI, DIES IN HAITIAN JAIL
by Mara Delt
After four days of sleeping on a cold cement floor in a police
holding cell at the Delmas 62 police station, Claudette Etienne
died on Sept. 10 at age 44.
Claudette had been deported back to her homeland after living for
20 years in the United States. When she was 23 years old, she had
fled Haiti by boat from the northwestern town of Jean-Rabel in
June 1980, during the regime of "President-for-life" Jean-Claude
Once in Florida, Claudette became a legal resident in the U.S. At
one time, she had been a farmworker and a small jewelry merchant.
She had two sons, Williams, 7, and Bepe, 8, both U.S. citizens,
and lived together with her common-law husband, Wilfrid Cherubin,
in Miami?s Little Haiti. In 1997, the couple had a marital
dispute at their home. According to the Miami Police complaint,
Cherubin alleged that Claudette waved a broken bottle at him.
Sentenced to one year on probation, Claudette abided by the
conditions that she attend a counseling program.
In June 1999, a Miami undercover officer alleged that he
purchased a cocaine "rock" from Claudette on a street corner near
her home in Miami. She was found guilty, but the judge decided
against sending Claudette to prison. Instead he sentenced her to
one year of probation, so she could remain at home caring for her
children and husband.
She was summoned to see her probation officer on Feb. 10, 2000.
Her husband accompanied her to the appointment. Officers from the
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) were waiting and
took her into custody, enforcing the harsh 1996 immigration laws
under which resident aliens convicted of a felony are subject to
For the next seven months, Claudette was held at the infamous
Krome Detention Center on the steamy edge of the Everglades in
Miami and at an INS detention center in Key West. She wrote
poignant letters to her husband and naive appeals to the INS for
her release to be with her children. When she was at Krome,
Cherubin visited her.
On September 6, 2000, Claudette Etienne was shackled at the
wrists and ankles by U.S. Marshals and put on a charter flight to
Haiti. When she and other deportees arrived there, the Haitian
National Police imprisoned them in a half dozen police stations
around Port-au-Prince and Pétionville. Deportees are sometimes
even sent to provincial jails like Cap Haïtien and Aux Cayes.
Conditions in the jails are horrifying. A reporter visiting the
holding cell at the Anti-Gang headquarters in downtown Port-au-
Prince last week saw a scene reminiscent of a slave ship. In a
twelve by fifteen foot cement cell, about forty men sat one
behind the other in tight rows, knees to chins. There is no
toilet, no sink, and no room to lie down. In the Pétionville
jail, conditions are so crowded that prisoners must devise slings
with their clothing to suspend themselves from the ceiling. The
cells are sometimes pitch black, the air thick with the stench of
human sweat and waste, and temperatures inside can reach 105
These were the conditions into which Claudette found herself
thrust. The police provide no food to the prisoners, who must
rely on family members to bring them meals. Claudette, who was
originally from Aux Cayes, had no family in Haiti and was forced
to rely on the infrequent generosity of fellow prisoners and
policemen for bits of food. On the morning of Friday, Sept. 8,
she managed to call her husband in Miami and asked him to send
some money. He had just been paid and wired $150 via Boby
Unfortunately it was too late. Claudette had been forced by
necessity to drink Haitian tap water, which contains virulent
micro-organisms to which she was no longer immune after two
decades in the States. Like almost every returned detainee, she
developed diarrhea. By Saturday, she was vomiting, had fever, and
complained of severe stomach pains. She cried to another
prisoner, Jeffrey Richelie, whom she knew from Miami, that she
feared she was going to die.
Claudette and the other prisoners begged the police to get her
medical help but it wasn't until Claudette was near death that
they finally transferred her to the State University Hospital on
the morning of Sun., Sept. 10. She died there a few hours later.
Richelie recounted his efforts to keep her alive by bathing her
twice the last day and comforting her while she cried in pain.
?By the second day, she started vomiting and had diarrhea,?
Richelie said. ?She had no real food, and she lay on the hard
cold floor the few days she was here.?
One can only imagine Claudette?s desperation as she felt herself
slipping away. ?She said she missed us and wished she could come
home,? Cherubin said of her final phone call. ?The children were
everything for her.?
Claudette?s death highlights the ruthlessness of INS deportation
policies, under which U.S. authorities expel legal residents who
often have no family in Haiti and frequently don?t even speak
Creole. As in Haiti, the deportations are destabilizing countries
throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, which are hard
pressed to process and resettle the influx of returnees.
Complicating matters is the tremendous prejudice toward the
deportees, whom the population views as outlaws. Indeed, some
among them are hardened criminals. When returned to a country
like Haiti with no knowledge of the language, culture, or
customs, and forced to survive in the mean streets of Port-au-
Prince, some deportees join gangs and return to a life of crime.
But most of the deportees are people like Claudette, who ran
afoul of the U.S. justice system mostly because they are poor,
black, and immigrants. Many of them, like Claudette, have never
been to jail. Some are mentally retarded or mentally ill and need
The situation puts the Haitian government in a dilemma. With
skyrocketing insecurity, it cannot afford to indiscriminately
release the returnees into the streets, even though they have
served their time. But at the same time authorities say they are
having difficulty to process returnees and reunite them with
their families due to financial and logistical constraints.
Furthermore, due to foreign aid cutoffs, jails, although improved
since the coup ended six years ago, are still crowded and lack
basic services and furnishings like food and beds.
Since June 26, 308 deportees have been returned to Haiti, says a
police chief Michael V. Lucius, who is in charge of vetting the
returnees to determine who should be detained and who set free.
Only about ?thirty odd? of the deportees have been released,
Lucius said. Another 213 will be arriving in the coming weeks.
And more after that.
Meanwhile, many of the deportees survive in jails only through
hand-outs or by the efforts of Chans Altènativ (Alternative
Chance), a non-governmental advocacy program for criminal
deportees in Haiti, which raises money for food and resettlement
through fundraising and selling arts and crafts.
The week before Claudette died, Chans Altènativ laid out the
conditions of ?criminal deportees? in Haiti in written testimony
submitted for an INS hearing. The testimony stated prophetically
that, "the result of intense discrimination and unlawful
detention is that... persons... are likely to die during or
shortly after detention, as a direct result of degrading
treatment and unsanitary conditions." A few weeks ago, another
criminal deportee died almost immediately after being released
Almost two weeks after Claudette Etienne?s death, the police had
still not performed an autopsy nor informed her family. On Sept.
22, a reporter from Haïti Progrès informed Cherubin of his wife?s
death. The young girl who answered the household phone anxiously
asked: ?Is she OK? Is there anything wrong??
Clearly something is wrong. Just three months earlier, on June
20th, Claudette Etienne, detainee #A24-673-954, wrote to Krome's
Deportation Officer Morales pleading for her release: ?Please
reconsider my custody situation. I am still with my husband and
we are still in love. Our 2 children... are here in Miami and
living with him. He works... and they attend... elementary school
in Miami. The crimes I did were an argument with my husband and
we forgave each other. The drug crime was because I needed the
money for my children. I made some bad mistakes and I won't do
them again. I'm sorry. Please reconsider my custody. I miss my
A visit to the Delmas 62 police station this past weekend
revealed that the remaining prisoners there are still without
food. Chans Altènativ, which is unfunded and struggling, is
providing them with what little food it can. But for how long?
The processing of deportees is proceeding slowly and more are on
(In an upcoming article, we will analyze the brutal new U.S.
deportation policy and its tragic effects on Haiti and its
diaspora, and suggest measures and responses the Haitian
government should take to protect its people but also the rights
of the deportees.)
To find out more about the situation of deportees, contact Chans
Altènativ at email@example.com or call in Haiti (509) 404-1545.
Anyone who would like to contribute to Claudette Etienne?s
funeral expenses can send checks to Wilfrid Cherubin, P.O. Box
370842, Miami, FL 33137.
FONKOZE HOSTAGE FOUND DEAD
Amos Jeannot, the employee of Fondation Kole Zepòl (FONKOZE) who
was kidnapped by bank-robbers on Sep. 6, was found dead at the
Port-au-Prince morgue on Sep. 21.
The body appeared to have been tortured and mutilated, although
an autopsy has yet to be done.
According to people who identified the body, it appeared that
some teeth had been pulled, an eye poked out, and skin peeled
from the body. However, some experts who have examined photos of
the corpse speculate that the disfigurement may be the result of
decomposition or post-death trauma.
After a cursory examination of the body at the morgue, Haitian
police investigators opined that ?this guy did not receive a
bullet,? said Ann Hastings, the director in Haiti of FONKOZE, who
was present at the viewing. She added, however, that she and
others noticed marks resembling bullet holes when they examined
photographs of the body with the shirt removed.
?The autopsy will tell the real story,? Hastings said. ?That can
tell us the approximate day he died and the cause of death. But
there is only one person in Haiti who is authorized to do
autopsies, and that person has been known to make serious
FONKOZE has requested that the police investigative team have an
observer at the autopsy, as is their right, to take note of the
procedures employed. ?We only hope that because of the large
international concern over this case that they will try to do
everything according to protocol.?
About 1500 mourners held a spirited mass commemorating the life
of Amos Jeannot at the Port-au-Prince Cathedral on Mon., Sep. 25.
They heard speeches from Hastings, Leigh Carter of FONKOZE USA,
and the bank?s founder Father Joseph Philippe. ?It was a very
moving ceremony which inspired all of us to press our call for
justice for Amos,? said Sister Ann Weller of the St. Joseph
Hospice in Port-au-Prince. Much of the crowd were small merchant
women, who are clients of FONKOZE, which specializes in loans to
?the organized poor.?
Ten men dressed as police officers abducted Jeannot from
FONKOZE?s main branch on Sep. 6 after they emptied the bank?s
safe. Two days later they telephoned in a vague ransom demand
that the bank close itself down in exchange for Jeannot?s release
(see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 18, No. 27, 9/20/2000).
?I cannot give any details, but the case is coming along very
well,? Hastings told Haïti Progrès. ?There have been some very
significant breakthroughs.? Depending on how the case progresses,
the bank may also consider offering a reward for information
leading to the arrest and conviction of Amos? killers.
All articles copyrighted Haiti Progres, Inc. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED
Please credit Haiti Progres.