A tribute to Jacques Roche

27 July 2005 by Collective


A TRIBUTE TO JACQUES ROCHE
TIRELESS DEFENDER OF THE POOR!
LET US MOBILIZE AGAINST HIS MURDER!

We, representatives of the undersigned organizations, wish to draw the attention of the Haitian people, and of the world’s social movements, to the fact that Jacques Roche, assassinated this Thursday, July 4, 2005, was not only a journalist and a poet, but above all a SOCIAL ACTIVIST, always on the front lines of defense for the cause of the Voiceless. To pay him the tribute he deserves, we wish to retrace his journey with us as a social activist. His primary existence as an activist is an aspect which has not been sufficiently recounted in the various positions taken to date.

We had the privilege of sharing with Jacques Roche in the achievement of several significant projects in which he fully dedicated his talent and know-how, his artistic sense, his love for culture, as well as his writing and speaking skills to defend the national cause and the cause of the poorest. In this way, from 2000 to 2004, collaborating with PAPDA and particularly with the Jubilee 2000 National Coalition -Haiti, Jacques Roche played a central role in the mobilization for the cancellation of Haiti’s foreign debt. He inspired and led several painters to design artistic works on the issues of hunger, the high cost of living and the foreign debt. He also put together a series of interviews with Haitian artists and intellectuals who were speaking out against the slavery of the debt. Jacques used these paintings and artistic posters to tour throughout several of the country’s geographic departments, holding exhibitions and lecturing on the topics of external debt, national production, etc.

At the international level, he took part in various mobilizations, conference-debates, seminars and in the World Social Forum in order to inform international networks about the extreme poverty faced by the Haitian people, about hunger, and about the terrible consequences of structural adjustment Structural Adjustment Economic policies imposed by the IMF in exchange of new loans or the rescheduling of old loans.

Structural Adjustments policies were enforced in the early 1980 to qualify countries for new loans or for debt rescheduling by the IMF and the World Bank. The requested kind of adjustment aims at ensuring that the country can again service its external debt. Structural adjustment usually combines the following elements : devaluation of the national currency (in order to bring down the prices of exported goods and attract strong currencies), rise in interest rates (in order to attract international capital), reduction of public expenditure (’streamlining’ of public services staff, reduction of budgets devoted to education and the health sector, etc.), massive privatisations, reduction of public subsidies to some companies or products, freezing of salaries (to avoid inflation as a consequence of deflation). These SAPs have not only substantially contributed to higher and higher levels of indebtedness in the affected countries ; they have simultaneously led to higher prices (because of a high VAT rate and of the free market prices) and to a dramatic fall in the income of local populations (as a consequence of rising unemployment and of the dismantling of public services, among other factors).

IMF : http://www.worldbank.org/
policies on national production and poverty in Haiti.

At the beginning of 2002, when the Lavalas Government had signed an agreement with the Dominican Government for the establishment of Industrial Free Zones (ZFI) in the fertile Maribahoux plain, thus expelling several hundred peasants producers from their lands, Jacques Roche was one of the pioneers in launching a large mobilization to defend the plain’s small farmers. He made countless trips to the countryside in collaboration with the Haitian Advocacy Platform for Alternative Development (PAPDA) and the Support Group for Refugees and Repatriates (GARR) together with delegations of peasants, students, workers, women, etc to take part in and organize the struggle against the establishment of the free zones in the fertile Maribahoux plain in Ouanaminthe (North-East Department). In spite of transportation challenges, including difficult roads and lack of financial support, Jacques was always ready to go wherever there was a need to mobilize for the cause of the poorest. Thus, in addition to Ouanaminthe, he had traveled to several towns along the border of the Dominican Republic to raise popular awareness regarding the consequences of the establishment of the industrial free zones all along the lush border.

Jacques had many concerns about the future of the fertile Maribahoux plain. He so greatly admired the natural beauty of the plain that he had put together a photographic essay depicting its richness. He contacted several institutions and organizations to raise money to finance this initiative with the support of professional photographers. With these photographs of the natural beauty of the plain, its production, the rivers which cross it, and the peasants who work there, Jacques created a traveling exhibition, including a powerful poster showing the relationship between peasant women and cultivation of the land (a woman harvesting beans), as well as postcards which have been distributed nationally and internationally to call upon the world’s social movement to give their solidarity to the cause of the peasants of the Maribahoux plain.

This northeastern plain was a source of inspiration for Jacques who wrote a famous text entitled: “The Maribahoux Wind.”

Jacques cherished several dreams for advancing national agricultural production. During his collaboration with PAPDA’s food sovereignty program, he advocated passionately for the creation of a local market, for the sale and promotion of only Haitian products, coming from each of the country’s departments.

Jacques also defended the cause of migrants, those who are obliged to leave their home. One of the most well-known of his texts on this topic was a poem dedicated to the children living in the bateys: “Child of the Cane,” where he expressed himself from the perspective a child living in a batey. This poem was translated into several languages and widely published and illustrated at the national and international levels.

Jacques showed his love for the country, the workers, the children, modest people, and national production not only in words, through his texts, but above all in his relationships with others. In spite of his great intellect, he was a modest person who got along with everyone. He took pleasure in savoring the corn roasted by a small-scale street vendor, in drinking the coffee purchased from the woman reputed to brew great coffee, of having his stew (konsonmen) every evening in a small restaurant he had just discovered and intended to promote. In this way, he struck up friendships with several women working in the processing of local products such as peanut butter, jam, the powdered corn snack sham-sham, and the local egg cream liquor Cremas..

Jacques was a philanthropist. He loved his friends, and he loved his neighbors. In our offices where he visited us, Jacques always brought us joy. He had a word of inspiration and encouragement for everyone, whatever their level of involvement within our organizations.

We especially appreciated Jacques’ desire and capacity to dialogue with any and all sectors as long as the goal was to do good and to advance the cause of the nation. He wrote for us, corrected our texts, and came to assist us when we were overwhelmed with activities. We still remember his extraordinary commitment to the challenge of carrying out the Third Assembly of the Caribbean Peoples (ACP) organized in Cap-Haitian from August 19 to 23, 2003.

Jacques was not a political activist, but rather a man of conviction, a social organizer and philanthropist, loving life and all that is good. He removed barriers between himself and all social classes. He wanted real change for his country and always repeated the slogan, "Another Haiti is possible!” He had clear ideas about what should be done to make that change; he was always willing to dialogue with any ideological grop and social class in order to bring forward that change.

Jacques did not like conflicts. He was a committed activist, always ready to be useful with a spirit of justice, freedom, equality and love for his country. In spite of the fact that all of his family lived abroad, he chose to stay in Haiti, sometimes under very difficult conditions, because he always said: “my place is here.”

This is, to the extent that can be described in words, the friend, comrade, social organizer, activist, poet and journalist that has just been brutally taken from us. Before Jacques’ violated body, we kneel and cry out our pain and our revulsion, and to reflect and try to understand the current state of our country.

We, representatives of organizations from the Haitian social and popular movement, signatories of this note, say “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!”. Too much blood has been spilled in this country!

We ask of the Haitian people that we re-center ourselves and that we mobilize to break this infernal cycle of violence that affects us all.

In order to make known the various facets of the eminent persona that Jacques Roche was and in order to pay him a rousing tribute, we, the undersigned organizations and institutions, invite all the sectors that had the opportunity to live and to work with him and all the partner international networks to organize activities throughout Haiti (in Port-au-Prince as well as in the provinces) and in different countries that enable us to say, in his memory, "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!” In particular, we invite the peasants, workers, defenders of national production, defenders of human rights, artists and intellectuals, students, sports lovers and journalists to make Jacques Roche known in their way and to mobilize to stop the unacceptable violence through a Week of Homage from July 18 to 23, 2005.

We invite all of you to mobilize so that the sufferings undergone by Jacques Roche and that his blood spilled and his love for his country may serve as an inspiration to enrich our conscience and give us the courage to continue the struggle to change our country.

Port-au-Prince, July 16, 2005

Organizations signatories:

- Support Group for Repatriates and Refugees (GARR)
- Haitian Advocacy Platform for Alternative Development (PAPDA)
- SolidarityAmong Haitian Women (SOFA)
- Support Committee for Women’s Health (CASF)
- National Human Rights Defense Network(RNDDH)
- Centre Pont-Haiti
- Platform for Sustainable Agriculture (PAD)
- Betty’s Local Products
- Association of Haitian Professionals Trained in Cuba(APROHFOC)
- National Campaign against Structural Adjustment and External Debt (KANPANN)
- Association for the Advancement of Natural Medicine (AMEN)



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