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17120: (Chamberlain) Haitians grapple with insidious corruption (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By Amy Bracken
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Nov 4 (Reuters) - When gang members broke into the
house of 15-year-old Natacha Jean-Jacques in March 2000 and tried to rape
her, the girl fatally stabbed one of the attackers in self-defence,
according to witnesses.
Still, Jean-Jacques spent almost three years in jail where she was
allegedly raped and impregnated by a corrections employee. She was never
put on trial and her attackers were never prosecuted.
Jean-Jacques came from a poor family, and it was only through the work
of Haitian women's groups and eventually international pressure that she
was released from jail.
Had Jean-Jacques been from a wealthy family, her story would have been
very different, said Marilyn Allien, president of the Port-au-Prince-based
Foundation for Haitian Heritage - Center for Public and Private Ethics and
Integrity, a chapter of the international anti-corruption coalition
"I swear my child wouldn't have spent a day in jail," she said. "This
is a clear case where corruption, when applied, would have protected that
Haiti was last month named one of the most corrupt countries in the
world. Transparency International pegged Haiti at No. 3 out of 131
countries around the world, and No. 1 out of 30 nations in the Americas and
the Caribbean in terms of the depth and breadth of corruption. It called
Haiti's corruption "pervasive."
At a Foundation for Haitian Heritage conference in March, participants
in the public and private sectors said they had experienced corruption at
the levels of government ministries, parliament, the judiciary, presidency,
the president's office, the prime minister's office, the municipal
administration, tax services, the national police and traffic police.
Frequently the corruption involved officials soliciting bribes, they
said. An employee at a nongovernmental organisation said that when an
acquaintance was shot to death in his car, he had to pay a police officer
to make a report, the state ambulance to pick up the body and the hospital
to put the body in its morgue.
Allien calls it a historical problem.
"We have a 200-year legacy of dictatorships, where the group in power
believes that winner takes all, that politics is a means toward personal
wealth and power," she said.
It is extremely difficult to fight corruption in a country that has a
70 percent unemployment rate, Allien said. There are almost no
whistle-blowers because people are terrified of losing their jobs.
As one solution, Allien advocates increased exposure, the job of
organisations like hers and investigative journalists.
She is also working to create a coalition of civil society and private
sector organisations to produce an anti-corruption advocacy report that
would be presented to the public and hopes to get the Haitian parliament to
ratify the Organisation of American States' anti-corruption resolution,
which Haiti signed in 1996.
Allien is optimistic that corruption is becoming more of a public
concern. When she was first developing her organisation, she said: "I spent
four year knocking on doors to get funding. Most international donors
didn't understand the need."
Today major international organisations are calling the issue a
Emilio Cueto, the Inter-American Development Bank's new representative
in Haiti, said he hopes to get approval to provide a loan that would go
specifically to create more transparency in the national budget.
Allien said corruption may be deterring badly needed international aid
to Haiti. International donors and lending organisations, citing governance
problems, usually give to nongovernmental organisations rather than to the
But there is a will on the part of some in the Haitian government to
As education minister in the mid-1990s, Emmanuel Buteau tried to
reform the system from the inside and found there was not enough will on
the part of those around him to change.
Buteau said that as minister he tried to fight corruption simply by
not participating in it and was persecuted for it.
When a school director wanted to admit students who had no evidence
that they had passed the required admissions exam but whose parents paid
him, Buteau refused to allow the admissions, he said.
The school director responded by having a judge publicly condemn
Buteau for blocking children's education.
Today Buteau is the director of a Port-au-Prince high school where he
continues to be haunted by a corrupt system. For example, Buteau said, he
always pays his taxes on time, yet always gets letters from tax services
saying he owes them.
"Are you a corrupt person if you pay someone at tax services to get
them off your back?" he said.
Most people in Haiti are honest and ethical, said Buteau, "but
unfortunately, the government is a corrupting one."