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Sunday, August 13, 2022, marked the first anniversary of the 2021 earthquake that devastated the southern part of the country. The earthquake added more suffering to a people already plagued with countless problems and still reeling from an earlier quake in 2010. Across the nation there have been subdued events to mark the occasion, especially in the departments in the south. In Aisle, one of the areas heavily affected, located in the Nippes department, a requiem mass was conducted at the main parish of Saint Pierre d’Honoré. In the absence of the parish priest Father Adler Point-du-Jour, the mass was celebrated by the Reverend Father Éric Armand of the diocese of Les Cayes. Those present included the municipal commissioner of Aisle, Éphéta Ambroise, and a representative from the office of the Secretary of State for Integration of Disabled People and the General coordinator of Grand Sud en Marche, Bolivard Ramilus. In his homily the priest stressed the need to thank God for the people who were spared and remembering those who lost their lives. Father Armand called on the faithful and pilgrims to live in peace and solidarity. Harking back to the situation in the country the priest stated “Despite the appalling situation in the country, we have nothing to fear. We must hold on, because Jesus is with us, and he will give us his peace”. He further called on the victims of the earthquake not to be discouraged and to fight in order to recover their lives.

As part of the celebration, Magalie Rémélus the representative of the Secretary of State for the integration of disabled people noted that Génard Joseph, donated equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, and canes, to people with disabilities. Ms. Éphéta Ambroise, deplored the difficult situation in her municipality one year after the disaster, with little to no help from the government. Ms Ambroise also stated that NGOs were there to lend a helping hand and do what they can but promises from the state have so far come to naught. People are still sleeping in tents under tarpaulins, and nothing concrete has been done so far. Schools that have been destroyed in the quake are yet to be rebuilt. The only school in the area that has began accepting students, thanks to the donation from the NGO, Food For The Poor, which built a six classroom block that houses the school now, there is no other structures for students to come as school reopening is scheduled for September 5, holds. Besides the building to house the students, the principal of the Aisle public school Jean Raymond Orézilas, pleads with the authorities to nominate eight of the twelve teachers currently working at the school. 

For his part, Bolivard Ramilus, coordinator of the organization Grand Sud en Marche (GSM) who took part in the requiem mass said he wanted to show his solidarity with the victims of the earthquake in Asile. His organization was the one who erected the tent under which the mass was celebrated since the church collapsed during the quake. Bringing together the departments of the South-East, South, Nippes, Grand’Anse and the Palmes region, GSM wants to be the standard-bearer of the struggle for autonomy in the Great South. Mr. Ramilus observed that since the quake the government has done nothing but make promises and the only thing that can change is the people organizing into a strong civil society and taking their destiny into their own hands. The former representative from Côtes-de-Fer also promised to put pressure on the authorities to assume their responsibility. There was no official ceremony to commemorate the quake in the city of Cayes. Instead, the youth organized a silent march through the major streets in memory of the lives lost in the quake. It was rumored that the authorities had planned a solemn ceremony but without resources to carry it out, the plan was scrapped. 

Meanwhile, leaders of the Episcopal Church of Haiti have been called to answer questions regarding the containers containing weapons and ammunitions discovered by customs officials in Port-au-Prince. Father Frantz Cole, one of the leaders of the church was summoned to appear before the judicial police (DCPJ) on Friday August 12, 2022, but failed to do so. A second invitation was also turned down, forcing the prosecutor’s office in the capital to issue a public moratorium ordering the prelate to appear before the DCPJ in less than twenty hours. While the prosecutors’ office is not ready to give details on the case as investigations are still ongoing, it’s safe to recall that on Thursday July 14, 2022, a search of a container that arrived at the port of Port-au-Prince destined to the Episcopal Church, revealed a cache of 18 automatic weapons, including 6 AK- 47s, Galils and M-4s, a 12-gauge rifle, six handguns, almost 20,000 rounds, 120 magazines of various calibers. The person in charge of receiving on behalf of the Episcopal Church of Haiti at the customs of Port-au-Prince the container in which there were weapons of war and ammunition is the customs agent Gina J.L Rolls. Following a wanted notice for “illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition operating on behalf of the Episcopal Church of Haiti”, the latter was arrested in Port-au-Prince on July 15. The police also announced the arrest of Lovenie Louis Jean as part of the investigation.  In a press release, the Episcopal Church of Haiti had refuted the allegations associating it with the illegal importation of this shipment of arms and ammunition. “So, if individuals go to customs to collect containers on behalf of the Episcopal Church, it can only be false documents used by criminal networks,” the Christian institution argued.

Finally, in an article that appeared on Bet.com, a Florida woman was charged on July 26 by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for using a “Ponzi-like” scheme to swindle 80 investors out of approximately $900,000. According to the allegations, Alexandra Robert, 23, of Palm Beach County and two companies she owns (Chalala Academy LLC and Lendvesting Academy Corp) raised the money by targeting Haitian Americans living in South Florida through an unregistered securities offering. From 2020 to 2021, the companies offered investment programs that promised “risk-free” returns up to 48% and made false claims online to unsuspecting investors. “As alleged, Robert and the two companies made statements on the company’s website and via social media claiming they raised more than $4 million from more than 1,000 investors, paid out $2.6 million in profits to investors, and were going to pay guaranteed investment returns from underwriting loans to small businesses,” the agency stated. Instead of following through on the investment, she allegedly used the invested funds to make Ponzi-like distributions to investors.

Dela Harlley

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