As conventional wisdom dictates; charity has a price. In Haiti’s case, however, the assessment of the benefactors falls disproportionably on the most vulnerable segment of the population: the orphaned and abandoned children roaming the streets of its major cities. With the Haitian government omnipotent in repression but AWOL on helping the citizenry, these children are left to fend for themselves. As a result, U.S-based foreign missionaries, mostly church-affiliated, are filling up the void, providing the needed social services which, in some cases, have become a nightmare for the beneficiaries.
The fact that hundreds of Americans chose to leave the comfort of a modern society with the purpose of alleviating the sufferings of thousands of children in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is praiseworthy and must never be forgotten. However, some pedophiles, looking for easy preys, are infiltrating these well-intentioned groups and bringing disrepute to their charitable endeavor. In some cases, many are well-known child molesters escaping the scrutiny of U.S authorities and relocating in Haiti where they can practice their trade with impunity. Complicating matters is the unsettling reality that foreigners (Blancs) practically enjoy de facto immunity from criminal prosecutions under an unwritten rule going back to the 18th century when the imprisonment of a westerner, living in Haiti, was considered casus belli by the great powers and used as a pretext for military interventions against the lone Negro Republic.
Ron Voss exemplifies the trend. A defrocked former Catholic priest from Indiana, notable pedophile and sexual predator, he flees the U.S in 1988 and settles in Haiti with the Church’s complicit assistance. On October 9th 2004, the Indianapolis Star published a story about Ron Voss, who had taken to philanthropic works and was a respected resident of his adopted country, imploring the Catholic Church’s hierarchy and Haitian authorities to take actions against him. Despite the documented accusations leveled against Ron Voss in the article, no actions were ever taken against this unreconstructed pervert who may have victimized dozens of Haitian boys.
Because child molestation can leave lasting psychological scars on the victims, the Haitian state must make the prosecution of anyone engaging in such deviant sexual behavior a priority. One obvious ramification of child molestation is the rise of underage prostitution in Haiti (both sexes), which has been increasing steadily since 2004 and slowly gaining social acceptance, with the 9000 U.N contingent (MINUSTAH) being the main facilitator of the trade. In 2007, 108 Sri Lankan peacekeepers were repatriated after they were accused of sexual exploitation and abuses of underage Haitian girls, a flagrant violation of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention Article 3 (c), which forbids “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment” of civilian populations in occupied countries.
One disturbing case is that of a U.S citizen named Douglas Perlitz, a Fairfield University alumnus, who founded the Project Pierre Toussaint at Cap-Haitien (PPT) and was subsequently fired by the organization’s Board of Directors for alleged sexual abuses of boys from the project’s boarding facility. According to a source familiar with the case, the Haitian National Police had investigated the matter and Mr. Perlitz brought forth before a magistrate, where he was represented by an attorney provided by the U.S Embassy in Haiti. Then the case took a turn consistent with the aforementioned structure of the Haitian state, which immunizes foreigners from criminal prosecutions. Mr. Perlitz was never charged; his whereabouts remain unknown, although he supposedly tried, according to my source, to intimidate his alleged victims whose testimonies guarantee him a well-deserved place in the pantheon of infamous sexual predators.
I attempted to contact the Rev. Paul Carrier, the former provincial Director of Campus Ministry at Fairfield University, who was instrumental in helping Mr. Perlitz establish PPT in 1997, but was unsuccessful. According to the source, in April 2008, Rev. Carrier was ordered to resign his post as Chairman of PPT Board of Directors by the Provincial of the New England Jesuits, 4 months prior to the firing of Mr. Perlitz in August of 2008. He is known to disagree with the Board’s decision to fire Mr. Perlitz and insisted that the allegations were never proven. Another PPT volunteer, whom I contacted, commented: “I do know Mr. Perlitz as an acquaintance. You can try sending me some questions, but I might have to give “no comment” responses”. On our last correspondence, the PPT volunteer defended Mr. Perlitz as a “caring, genuine and gentle person” and maintained that there are many who believe he has been framed by the Cap Haitien Police and the children were bribed into accusing him. He further added “If accusations like this were brought against me, I too would return to the US because I do not believe I would receive a fair trial in the Haitian system”.
Has Mr. Perlitz returned to the U.S? If so, why was he allowed to leave Haiti and the case not transferred to the proper U.S authorities? Evidently, the Haitian government, not wanting to ruffle feathers, is participating in a cover up, because the scandal could potentially affect the good works of many charitable organizations operating in Haiti. In light of the secrecy surrounding the whole affair, the victims are simply expendable. However, pedophiles are sociopaths, and Mr. Perlitz, wherever he might be in the U.S or a Third World country, poses a latent threat to the community in which he now lives.