SOPUDEP School UPDATE            Sep 9 2004


The Dismantling of Popular Education Under the new U.S-backed Regime in Haiti

Septemper 9 2004

Delegation tries to meets with Madame Rene in response to previous day's harrassment with guns by member of Latortue regime.

A meeting was scheduled with second mayor Madame Rene for September 8th at 10:30 am. Madame Rene finally arrived at 11:00 am and a group of four Americans and five Haitians representing the SOPUDEP School were ushered into her outer waiting room. The SOPUDEP delegation included Rea Dol, Jean-Jacques Batialle, Lisius Orel, Daniel Tillius, Ginette Apollon, Kevin Pina, Sister Stella Pasture, Sister Marilyn Langlois, and Father Michael Graves.

She motioned for Father Graves to enter her office where upon she began questioning him about the school. Father Graves said he was aware of the situation with the school but that he would prefer that another spokesperson for the group speak with her. She continued to press him until he finally left her office in frustration as she refused to see anyone else from the group. Father Graves referred to her as "insolent" and "disrespectful" and refused to return to her office.

The rest of the group then entered madame Rene's office and tried to introduce themselves. Madame Rene continually interrupted the introductions asking why they were there. Finally, Kevin Pina stated that it had come to their attention that she and Mayor Figaro had entered the SOPUDEP School the previous day accompanied by men with guns. He stated that many of the supporters of the school were very concerned by this event and that it appeared to be meant to intimidate the director of the school. Pina also stated that they could have easily entered the school without guns to ask for a meeting with the director which would have lead to a better climate for dialogue.

Madame Rene immedaitely grew defensive and defended her right to travel with armed guards for security stating that it was normal procedure. She also stated that their reason for visiting the school was that they had received reports from people in the neighborhood that the building had been abandoned and was full of trash. Rea Dol responded that this was simply not true and that it would be impossible for anyone in the neighborhood to think that given that the school's enrollment is now over 450 students. Madame Rene grew defensive again and said that the mayor's office had no record on file of SOPUDEP or its right to the property and a license to run a school. She then contradicted herself and said that the reason they had come to the school was to represent the owner who had requested their intervention.

Kevin Pina reminded her that the legal owner of the property was deceased and that SOPUDEP had received a ten year lease from the government to use it for a school. Pina, who had copied and organized all the legal documents for the school the night before, attempted to hand Madame Rene the documents and she refused to accept them stating that he was a "foreigner" and had no business discussing the matter with her. Pina then explained to her that he represented the countless individuals and organizations in Canada and the United States who were supporters of the school many of whom had made financial contributions to the development of the school. He then offered her more than fifty letters of support they had received the night before and again she refused to accept them claiming that it was a intimidation tactic to have foreigners come to her office on behalf of the school.

Ginette Apollon pointed out to her that the real intimidation was entering a school for the poor with armed police and that the delgation was simply there to talk. At this point Mayor Figaro came into the room and explained that the mayor's office had "other plans" for another project for that building for a long time. Rea Dol asked how could that be possible since the school has been functioning for over three years and has a legal ten year lease for the building with the previous government. Dol then tried to present Madame Rene with the legal documents again which she refused stating that she would not discuss the matter as long as foreigners were present. Ginette Apollon then replied she did not understand that rationale given that she was an appointee of the Latortue government who was brought to power by a process created by foreigners.

Kevin Pina stated again that the American and Canadian supporters of the school have every right to be involved in insuring the integrity and functioning of the school particularly in light of the investments they made to insure its development. Mayor Figaro then stormed out of the office and Madame Rene began screaming "Get out of my office!!" in a very agitated and menacing manner. The delegation left with the matter unresolved but vowed to continue fighting for the school.

Today, September 9th, Rea Dol received ominous news that the Petion-Ville mayor's office has passed the matter up to their bosses in the Ministry of the Interior with a recommendation to close the school. The Ministry of the Interior is currently run by former Haitian army General Herard Abraham who has filled his offices with appointees from the ranks of the former military. The supporters of the SOPUDEP School will be developing a new strategy in the days to come so please check back here regularly for updates or write to be added to the mailing list. We ask that you contiue to write letters but address them to the Committee to Save SOPUDEP School so they may be forwarded to the appropriate officials in the future. Thank all of you for your continuing support of the SOPUDEP School.

Urgent Action Request
for SOPUDEP School

©2004 Judith Scherr
©2004 Haiti Information Project - The SOPUDEP School also provides a hot lunch program for their children. For many it is the only hot meal they eat each day.
The St. Joan of Arc Church peace and justice delgation is just one of dozens of religious organizations that have visited the SOPUDEP School and continue to actively support its programs.
The Kindergarten Class at the SOPUDEP School in Petion-Ville. The majority of these children could not find a place in the overcrowded public schools nor could they afford to attend a private school. SOPUDEP trys not to turn down any child for lack of funds.