Human rights activists around the world are protesting the abduction of world-renowned Haitian activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, who was kidnapped on August 12, 2007 after meeting with U.S. human rights activists.
Pierre-Antoine is recognized in Haiti as a leading advocate for poor people, including street children, teenage mothers, and victims of torture. He co-founded Fonassyon Trant Septamn, an organization concerned about the victims of the 1991 coup in Haiti. He is also a member of Fanmi Lavalas and a founding member of the September 30th Foundation, which was formed to advocate for the release of hundreds of political prisoners who languish in Haiti’s prisons.
The beloved Haitian activist had just publicly announced his plans to run for a seat in the Haitian senate and vowed to fight human rights violations in his country.
Haiti experienced a coup four years ago when United Nations’ Marines removed president Jean Bertrand Aristide. Aristide’s ouster reversed ten years of grassroots democracy in the country, and U. S. forces have been replaced by U. N. forces headed by Brazil, which now occupy Haiti. Since the coup, poverty and violence in the country have increased. Thousands of people have been killed or imprisoned and a tiny elite have profited from the grinding poverty of Haiti’s poor majority.
Haiti has been experiencing economic and social upheaval with massive food riots; sporadic violence; the political imprisonment of key government and grassroots leaders; the destruction of schools, markets, and health services; sex trafficking; and the alleged rape of Haitian women and girls by U.N. troops. As one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, seventy-eight percent of Haitians subsist on less than $2 a day and over half survive on $1 a day or less.
According to his supporters, Pierre-Antoine vowed to change the country’s massive social and economic problems. Witnesses said that the human rights activist was last seen getting into a car on August 12 in Haiti. The vehicle was found hours later a short distance away from where the activist was last seen.
One of Pierre-Antoine’s last public appearances was at a demonstration on the anniversary of the United States’ occupation of Haiti, at the United Nations headquarters where the activist spoke about the deplorable conditions in Haiti.
Activists across the globe have been protesting Pierre-Antoine’s disappearance and are pressing for his safe return by fasting and holding weekly vigils.
To protest Pierre-Antoine’s kidnapping, members of the Global Women’s Strike (GWS), are holding a weekly vigil in front of the Brazilian consulate every Thursday from 12 to 1 p.m. Members are demanding the activist’s safe return and will hold the vigil until Pierre-Antoine is returned to Haiti.
The organization has implemented a massive signature drive to urge the Brazilian government that heads the U. N. forces in Haiti, to help secure Pierre-Antoine’s release. So far, the organization has collected 2,100 signatures from sympathizers urging Pierre-Antoine’s safe return.
“We’ve visited the Brazilian consulate here twice and met with counselor official Enrique Jenne,” said GWS member Sidney Ross-Risden. “He assured us that the documents and signatures we’ve given him so far in support of Pierre-Antoine’s return will be forwarded to his government in Brazil and to the Brazilian forces in Haiti.”
“Pierre-Antoine is extremely popular and is a member of the Lavalas movement,” said GWS member Ruth Todasco. “We know that he had just announced that he was going to run for the senate. Being close to Aristide, he could be looked at as a threat to the powers that be,” said Todasco.
“I just hate to see this sort of thing happen. Pierre-Antoine is a man who’s a spokesperson for the downtrodden in Haiti and now he has been kidnapped,” said Alex Todasco, 80, a retired petroleum engineer who vigorously waved his protest sign at passing motorists. “He supports the poor of Haiti and represents them on all the issues they’re fighting for–he’s been kidnapped and there’s no telling what happened to him. Hopefully, the publicity surrounding his case will help to set him free.”
“I met Pierre-Antoine and he is a very fine gentleman,” said GWS member Pamela Hall. “He’s doing wonderful things for orphans, women, children, and oppressed people in Haiti. He had such power in the country–that’s why we feel he was seized.”
There has been little or no response regarding Pierre-Antoine’s disappearance from officials in Brazil, nor from the United States which has great influence in what occurs in Haiti,” said GWS member Sidney Ross-Risden. “Haiti doesn’t get much coverage in the United States and the disappearance of Pierre-Antoine has gotten very little press,” said Ross-Risden. “People think of Haiti as a poor, small country that doesn’t count.”
Despite the lack of media attention, Ross-Risden said that numerous activist groups around the world are aggressively advocating for the Haitian activist’s return.
Organizations urging the safe return of Pierre-Antoine include The Ad Hoc Working Group for Haiti, CISPES, Global Women’s Strike/LA, International Action Center/LA, and Women of Color in the Global Women’s Strike.