What US authorities can do is limited, but their form letter prose can be inspiring
by Joe Cross
[Editor’s note: Joe Cross is one of the many occasional contributors to The Panama News whose work has given this publication a broader and more astute outlook. From boxing coverage to tales of smuggling on the Paraguay-Argentina-Brazil Triple Border to violence between Palestinians and Israelis (and among Jews) in the West Bank town of Hebron, to notes from Damascus and Kiev, he has kept the readers and the editor apprised of various situations over the years. He also owns real estate and businesses in Haiti, which notwithstanding a long US-led occupation is sliding ever deeper into chaos. In the confusion a move is on to grab some beachfront property from him, which has led to various legal skirmishes and a severe beating that now has Joe back in New York for surgery over head injuries. Joe was in touch with the American Embassy and consulate in Haiti over the situation and like many Americans who fall victim to crimes overseas learned how little diplomats can actually do. American Citizen Services? The tale which the exchange of messages below first came to my Facebook page with a message that read: “Still in Haiti. Almost killed. American Citizens Services is the most Orwellian modern thing out there. They sent me a form letter that was hilarious under the circumstances.”]
Dear Ambassador Peter Mulrean,
I am hesitant to write to you – but don’t have many options. Subsequent to our being introduced by Richard Morse at my hotel, the Hotel Florita in Jacmel, on Saturday March 26. I was attacked on my beachfront property in Ti-Mouillage, Caye-Jacmel, Sud-Est. My land, 2.13 carreaux, was bought by me in 1999 – from Americans who purchased it in 1973. My ownership was never questioned until 2013 – when the land became valuable. (It’s current value is approximately $500,000).
The current state of affairs is that although it has been seized it cannot be sold. But that is precisely what I am facing now and I cannot delay taking action. It is now being sold.
My former attorney was clearly complicit in this and will not return the Deed or any part of the file and is demanding $100,000 for the return of the documents. Subsequent attempts to regain physical possession had been unsuccessful, although I have been represented by law firms in both Port-au-Prince and Jacmel. Unfortunately it seems to be “bad form” for a Haitian lawyer to go up against a fellow attorney. (I briefly retained a very prominent lawyer – who told me this protocol prevented him from “interfering” in the affairs of another attorney.)
A week ago I went with the manager of the Florita and our carpenter to the property to take down the posts put up to facilitate the sale of the land. We were attacked by four armed men. My head was split open while they decided what to do with us. I was known to them and my nationality seemed not to be a deterrent. I suffered a concussion. I have received death threats and the threatened destruction of my hotel. I am not a fearful person but these are things I cannot entirely disregard. My neighbor had his land and vacation house similarly seized and when he attempted to return to it he was chased off his property with a similar warning not to return. His house was subsequently razed – and the failure of local authorities to intervene has emboldened these people – and there hirelings – to the point that they feel they do as they like without having to concern themselves with repercussions.
Although the perpetrators in the attack have been identified and the police know their whereabouts no arrests have been made. They are considered “armed and dangerous” so it has been indicated that it will be expensive to have them arrested. And even if they are arrested they are only employees of the family (formerly politically connected) that is responsible.
Any assistance that you might be able to provide will be very much appreciated.
My suggesting that the Embassy can help in what is a private matter is perhaps naive but I don’t feel I have many options. I have been in Haiti since 1982 and heard that the American Embassy was occasionally able to involve itself in the affairs of Americans who find themselves victims of crimes of this nature. So I am hoping to hear your suggestions regarding this matter. (Richard Morse told me that he was aided through Vice-President Joe Biden’s office when he felt that he and his family – and the Oloffson – were similarly endangered but I unfortunately have no connection that could possibly assist me.)
My best regards to your family – and hope to see you again in Jacmel at a more tranquil time. I am not usually reduced to having to seek the help of busy people who innocently happened to have stopped in for lunch at my hotel!
Please feel certain that while I will be grateful for any suggestions or assistance I have hesitated in asking you for help and only do so as I feel I have exhausted other available options.
I’m very sorry to hear about your troubles and particularly concerned about the potential risk you are running of physical attack. I have copied our Consul General, Bob Hannan, on this message, as he is responsible for American citizen services at our embassy and can follow up with a more detailed message.
Peter F. Mulrean
U.S. Embassy Port au Prince
We had visitors this morning. Things are going to get quite ugly very quickly. We are being threatened and taunted as “our” lawyer, Maitre Ephesian Joissaint, has the original of the deed and we can therefore do nothing, failing to get us to pay $100,000 is getting a percentage from each sale. There can be no further delay.
This is happening to many people who own beachfront property – including other Americans.
Quite simply: we need help.
… and things did get worse, leading to this form letter:
~ ~ ~
The announcements below are interactive. Click on them for more information