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#5249: Washington steps up pressure on Haitian government (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Washington steps up pressure on  Haitian government
By Jacques Richard  4 October 2000
Published By the International Committee of the Fourth International
Washington is growing impatient over the Haitian government's
reluctance to bow down to US and international criticism of alleged
electoral fraud in recent parliamentary elections.
Last month, US Ambassador to the Organization of American States
(OAS) Luis Lauredo accused Haitian leaders of ignoring ?the serious
concerns raised by the international community regarding the May
21 elections.? He condemned ?the flawed methodology for
determining Senate winners? and warned that ?in the absence of
meaningful change, the United States will not support the
presidential and legislative elections planned for November 26.?
 Lauredo concluded with a threat to cut off vitally-needed US aid.
The Haitian government of Rene Preval has since been pressured
into accepting another OAS mission to Haiti after US State Secretary
Madelaine Albright had, what press reports termed, a ?vigorous
exchange? with the Haitian president during the UN Millenium
Summit. In late September, the OAS's Adjunct Secretary-General, the US
diplomat Luigi Enaudi, spent a week in Haiti trying to mediate
between the government, which is controlled by the Famille
Lavalas party of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and the
Convergence démocratique, a 15-member opposition alliance,
which includes supporters of the former military and Duvalier
dictatorships as well as erstwhile allies of Aristide. In the middle of
his mission, Enaudi was joined by Donald Steinberg, the US State
Department official responsible for Haiti, and his Canadian
counterpart David Lee. In what appeared to be a coordinated action,
the North American diplomats threatened to cut off $400 million in
 annual assistance, while European Union officials were telling a
 visiting Haitian government delegation that the EU will suspend its
$100 million a year aid program to Haiti if the election dispute is not
soon resolved. At the conclusion of his mission, Enaudi refused to call
it a failure, but conceded he had not gotten representatives of the
government and opposition to meet face-to-face and didn't know whether
he would be returning to Haiti. The Preval government is insisting that
the results of the May 21  elections are ?non-negotiable,? while the
opposition is demanding that the electoral commission and all those
elected on May 21 immediately be suspended from their official functions
and new elections organized. The real roots of the current crisis
Should the US, Canada and the European Union make good on their
threat of an aids cut-off, Haiti, the poorest country in the Western
Hemisphere, will be devastated. But one would search in vain for any
serious explanation from the North American and European powers as to
the reasons for the current crisis. The incongruities and contradictions
in the accounts given by the diplomats of the great powers and recycled
by the international press are well illustrated in a report filed by an
OAS delegation that visited Haiti in August. According to that report,
Since 1997, Haiti has been through a prolonged political crisis
 which has left the country without a constitutionally established
 government for three years and without a Parliament for 18 months.
The national and international community hoped that the legislative
and municipal elections, finally held on May 21, 2000, would bring a
solution to the political crisis with the establishment of a new
Parliament. It was encouraging to see that 90 percent of the Haitian
electors had registered, and that 60 percent of those electors have
voted in the first round of the elections... the consensual opinion [of
foreign observers] was that overall the May 21 elections have been free
and transparent.? But the electoral council awarded 19 of 27 Senate
seats to Aristide's Lavallas Party,based on it having won the majority
of the votes polled by the four biggest vote-getters in the first
round?not of the total votes, as prescribed by Haiti's election law.
Ignoring protests from the opposition and foreign governments, the
Haitian government then pressed ahead with a second round of elections
July 9 ?in an attempt to have the results of the Senate elections
validated.??The [OAS] Commission has observed that following these
irregularities in the legislative elections, political polarization and
a climate of intimidation have intensified in Haiti and have dealt a
 blow to the consolidation of the fragile democracy in the country.?
Left out of this account is any consideration of the objective roots of
the violent power struggle which has been raging within the Haitian
elite. The OAS report acknowledged that the ?absolute poverty in
which most of the population is living ... the high rates of illiteracy,
the reduced life expectancy, the high rates of infant mortality, and
malnutrition are ... creating a situation of social urgency.? But it
failed to examine either the source of this devastating social crisis or
its connection to the political power struggle. In fact Haiti's social
catastrophe is directly tied to the economic agenda the US and other
imperialist powers have imposed on Haiti. Under an International
Monetary Fund-style structural adjustment program, whose adoption was a
condition for US support for the restoration of the
democratically-elected Aristide to the Haitian presidency in 1994, the
country's internal market is being opened up to the transnational
corporations, profitable state industries have been privatized, social
spending further reduced, and thousands of government jobs wiped out.

None of the rival Haitian political groupings is opposed to the
 economic agenda of international capital. Rather, the power struggle
 consists largely of the attempt of the various groupings to convince
the US and other imperialist powers that they should be entrusted
with the task of carrying out this agenda. Stoking the conflict is the
historic weakness and dependency of Haiti's venal bourgeoisie. Lacking
an independent economic basis, various cliques fight for state power, so
as to gain access to patronage and the prerogative of further plundering
state resources through privatization. A second important factor in the
political crisis is that the government's opponents on the extreme
right?partisans of the former Duvalier and Cedras dictatorships?have
been encouraged by the US Republicans to persevere in their efforts to
rid Haiti of the ?dangerous radical? Aristide. This encouragement has
taken two forms: explicit statements from leading Republicans that the
US should never have restored Aristide to the presidency and the
  Republicans' own vendetta against the Clinton regime.
Further contributing to the political volatility are the appeals made by
Aristide and his supporters to popular discontent during last spring's
election campaign. ristide's party adopted a right-wing election
platform pledging to continue the IMF-dictated policies pursued by
Preval, but in the final weeks of the campaign suddenly switched
gears and appealed both to anti-IMF sentiment and popular hostility
to the former military and Duvalier dictatorships.Aristide's opponents
don't just resent losing out in the immediate power struggle. They, and
their international backers, fear, not without reason, that such
populist appeals could so raise the hopes and expectations of Haiti's
impoverished masses as to give rise to a social rebellion that threatens
the already shaky edifice of capitalist rule in Haiti.The subsequent
attempts of the Preval government to manipulate the electoral process
indicate the Lavalas Party's own fears of the rising social tensions.
For a government that had cut social spending and thousands of public
sector jobs there was a clear danger in continuing to stoke popular
opposition to the agenda of the IMF.Preval and Aristide probably also
recognized that their own support at the polls was largely negative, a
product of popular hatred for the  former dictatorships, and might
diminish in a second round?historically turnouts in second rounds in
Haiti have been extremely low?especially if the opposition carried
through on its veiled threats of violence.In the ensuing months, the
Preval regime continued to faithfully apply the dictates of
international capital, hoping thereby to ease pressure from Washington
for new elections. Last month, at the urging of the World Bank and IMF,
the Haitian government stopped subsidizing the price of oil, causing it
to jump 44 percent. For decades Washington supported right-wing
dictatorships in Haiti. Even now, while lecturing the Haitian government
on electoral procedure, it refuses to hand over to Haitian authorities
thousands of pages of documents concerning the crimes of the Cedras
military regime and its allies.The real aim of Washington's current
campaign of threats against the Haitian government is to make the
Lavalas regime even more subservient to the dictates of international
capital by insisting, in the name of ?political reconciliation,? that
longstanding US allies on the extreme right are given a share of
political power.The real aims of the US in Haiti were made explicit in
speeches top government officials gave to a National Organization for
the Advancement of Haitians Conference last June as the conflict over
 the conduct of the elections began to assume serious proportions.
?Most Latin American and Caribbean nations,? declared Peter
Romero, acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Western
Hemisphere, ?are firmly on the path of economic reform, stepping
into the twenty-first century with privatized economies, liberalized
regulatory systems, and improved financial systems??all euphemisms
for the unrestrained penetration of international capital in formerly
closed national markets at the cost of jobs and social devastation.
?Unfortunately,? he continued, ?these positive developments are
hindered by the fact that corruption and government inefficiency still
thrive at near epidemic levels in some countries in the region, and
the political will to put aside partisan differences and pursue sound
economic policies is simply not always there.? In the case of Haiti,
progress toward economic reform has been uneven and painfully
slow.? Vowed the next speaker, Special Haiti Coordinator Donald
Steinberg, ?We will continue to press the Haitian Government to
restore fiscal discipline and move ahead on the modernization of key
state-owned enterprises.?