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Inside Story Americas

Protecting Haiti's homeless

Has the Haitian government failed to protect its own people from forced evictions and violence?

Last Modified: 16 May 2013 12:11
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Michel Martelly, Haiti's president, says that under his two-year leadership, the country is attracting foreign investment and seeing job growth, but more than 40 percent of Haitians are without work, and labour activists say the number is much higher.

"If people find jobs they are just temporary jobs, or jobs that are not paying well, they are not decent, they are not sustainable," Yanick Etienne, a Haitian labour activist, told Al Jazeera.  

There has been a lack of clarity and implementation by the Haitian government itself, and I think everyone understands that they have great challenges and limited resources, but one would have hoped that these people who are desperate would have been treated a little bit more humanly.

Adotei Akwei, the managing director for government relations at Amnesty International 

Meanwhile 300,000 Haitians are still living in tent camps. Thousands of families have left, but often as a result of being forcibly evicted from public and private properties, and most have nowhere else to go.

The government says it does not condone forced evictions, but a recent report by Amnesty International says it has failed in its duty to protect its people.

"The government ... has been very proactive in trying to find a home for 1.5 million people living out of tents, and through a programme called '16/ 6' ... we have been able to relocate above 1.2 million people .... By no means is it an eviction process. We are taking people who are living in inhumane conditions and pulling them back into homes," Francois Guillaume, the Haitian consul general in Miami told Al Jazeera.  

More than three years after the devastating earthquake that left 2.3 million people homeless, displaced families are still struggling for access to clean water, health care, schools and basic services.

In addition, more than 16,000 families have been forcibly evicted from private and public lands.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International found that the majority of these evictions were carried out using intimidation and violence by people claiming to own the land or landowners reclaiming properties.

After being evicted from makeshift camps, families have been given no legal guarantees or alternative housing, and 21,000 more families have been threatened with forced eviction.

So what are the major challenges facing Haiti's actual leadership? Has the government failed to protect its people? And how can things improve in the country?

To discuss this, Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by guests: Kim Ives, a journalist with Haiti Liberte; and Adotei Akwei, the managing director for government relations at Amnesty International.

US tax scandal: How to cheat the system 

The US justice department has launched an investigation into revelations that the country's federal tax agency, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), targeted conservative groups.

I think what this exposes is a larger scandal about the IRS' complete failure to enforce the law, which is letting groups engage in political activity, when they are really not supposed to

Daniel Newman, the executive director of Maplight

The IRS apologised to the groups after it revealed that it used terms like "tea party" or "patriots" to seek them out for extra scrutiny.

President Barack Obama called the actions 'intolerable'. And two leading Republicans suggested that criminal acts may have been committed.

The IRS defines 501(c)(4)s as organisations whose primary mission is advocating for "social welfare". Like charity organisations, they do not have to pay taxes on donations they receive.

They also do not have to disclose their donors. These organisations are allowed to lobby on a particular issue, but their primary focus cannot be political.

Between 2010 and 2012, the number of applications for 501 (c)(4) status doubled to more than 3,300. This was partly due to a 2010 Supreme Court decision. That ruling gave corporations, unions and other associations the ability to spend unlimited funds on political activities.

So what is really at stake with this controversy? Should non-profit organisations be allowed any political activity? Does the IRS scandal prove that 501 (c)(4)'s be eliminated?

To discuss this, Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by guests: Marcus Owens, he is the former director of the exempt organisations divisions with the Internal Revenue Service; and Daniel Newman, the executive director of Maplight, an organisation dedicated to revealing money's influence on politics.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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