August 12 was the one-year anniversary of the kidnapping of Haitian human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine. Thus, the Ad Hoc Working Group for Haiti stepped up its pressure on the local Brazilian consulate—in conjunction with actions around the world, including ones in England, Guyana, and Haiti itself. Between 20 and 22 demonstrators were counted, and a 92-year-old passerby raised her walker in support.
As passing motorists honked in support, Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape and the London weekly vigil for Lovinsky's safe return, read a letter by Selma James of Global Womens' Strike and Pierre La Bosierre of Haiti Action Committee:
“. . . Lovinsky shares Aristide's goals and methods: ending poverty and human rights abuses through grassroots mobilization. Before his abduction, Lovinsky campaigned for changes to the constitution, so Haiti would never again have a military.
“He was [inaudible word] for the senate, an election he was sure to win. Fasts and vigils for his safe return are being held today in Haiti, Guyana, Canada, and the U.S., and on the steps of St Martin-in-the Fields [Church] in London. “
The late Don White, part of the Ad Hoc Working Group for Haiti, had a presence as well. Sidney Ross-Risden, also of the Ad Hoc Working Group, read a fairly recent statement by him, from an event concerning Haiti:
“We know that no struggle has reflected more pain or more human sacrifice, but also no struggle has been more of an inspiration and heroic as the struggle of Haiti. It's a reflection to the world and an inspiration to the world that people will continue to struggle against overwhelming adversity, not taking a step backward but moving forward and telling the world that we are not going to take what's happening to us through U.S. Imperialism, U.S. policy, and so on.
“Haiti's inspiring story tells us that the people of the south and the people of the Caribbean are showing us the way here in the United States. We're learning what it is to resist. We're learning to stand up and say, 'No more!'”
Ross-Risden added: “So, for Don, we want to say in his honor: [shouts] 'No more! No more! No more! Presente!'” The participants joined in.
“The the U.N. should get out of Haiti now,” said Cela Esguerra of ANSWER-LA. “The Haitian people, who have always fought for their freedom, deserve it more than ever.”
After the one-hour demonstration, a large group prepared to go into the building and ask the consulate about Brazil's lack of response to this situation. (Ross-Risden reported that it was only a week earlier that the consulate was finally in touch the the Brazilian embassy in DC.)
“Brazil, as head of the U.N. forces, has a great many contacts and a great of influence of what goes on in Haiti, and we want their help to find Lovinsky,” said Margaret Prescod of Women of Color in Global Womens' Strike. ”So we're going to go upstairs.”
And so, about eight people met with Bernardo Velloso, press officer of the consulate. The materials presented to him included *a letter from Michèle Pierre-Antoine,wife of Lovinsky; *a motion from the UK Parliament, presented by John McDonnell and signed by 23 Members of Parliament, calling on the British government “to urge the Haitian and UN authorities to double their efforts to locate Mr. Pierre Antoine and ensure the protection of Mr Mésilien”; *a second report from Amnesty International called Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine is Still Missing;* a recent article from Our World by Shirley Hawkins about the situation and the weekly L.A. vigils; *and The Free Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine Petition to President of Haiti René Préval and the UN forces in Haiti, which was already given to the consulate previously.
Velloso responded: “I can assure you that the documents that have been brought in the past to the consulate have been sent to the authorities that deal with the issue of Haiti at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they have received them. We have not received a response at this point. We have also been in touch with our embassy in Washington. All political issues regarding Haiti and the United States are dealt with by the embassy in Washington D.C.
“So as far as what the consulate is able to do is make sure is that the embassy in Washington is informed and that our Ministry of Foreign Relation in Brasilia is informed and receives all documents that are brought to our attention by you.
“If you have more documents for us, we'll be glad to make sure that these are also sent to the appropriate authorities. And we'll make sure to ask them for a response as quickly as possible.”
Frustration was expressed by the group about the lack of response to their concerns over the last year. “There's a life at risk here,” Margaret said.
She added: “Those of us from black and brown communities [are] particularly put out with the role that Brazil is playing. It is not the international image of Brazil, it is not one that Brazil likes to put forward.
“. . . The black population within Brazil would be stunned, hurt, and disheartened when they get the story on what is happening to our brother Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine and the inaction. Up until now—there is a chance for people to start anew—Brazil has not taken this seriously as Brazil has taken responsibility for law and order in Haiti. That's why you're leading the U.N. Forces.
“. . . We want to get an idea of when we're going to get a response. This has been a year [of] submitting documents, studies being done, Amnesty issuing statements, other people being put at risk in Lovinsky's organization. Wilson [Mésilien] has had to go underground a number of times because of threats against his life.
“So really we want to get some sense of when are we going to hear something from somebody sot hat six months from now we're not back here having the same conversation.”
Nana Gyamfi of Africans for Haiti stated that: “[W]e don't want Brazil's name to be added to those nations that tolerated disappearances, that tolerated starvation, that tolerated the kinds of things that are going on in Haiti now. And so we'll be back.”
The weekly vigil outside the Brazilian consulate, which began in May (see: http://la.indymedia.org/news/2008/05/217447.php
), is on hiatus in August but will resume in September.
In the background is a reporter from KPFK.