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#126: This Week in Haiti 17:16 7/7/99 (fwd)
From: Haiti Progres <HAITI-PROGRES@prodigy.net>
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
July 7 - 13, 1999
Vol. 17, No. 16
HAITI'S "BEST AND BRIGHTEST" GO TO WASHINGTON
A delegation of Haitian businessmen traveled to Washington, D.C.
last week to plead with lawmakers there to keep U.S. troops based
The U.S. House of Representatives voted last month to withdraw
500 U.S. soldiers still stationed in Haiti at a heavily fortified
camp at the Port-au-Prince airport. The Clinton Administration
has said that the soldiers are just engineers doing humanitarian
projects. In fact, they are there to safeguard the interests of
sectors like the Haitian bourgeoisie, as last week's delegation
illustrates. The Haitian businessmen went to lobby U.S. senators
to block the House's move, which mainly aims to let more air out
of Clinton's already deflating foreign policy "success" in Haiti.
The Haitian bourgeoisie and some sectors of the U.S. government
feel that there could be an armed uprising against the tiny,
privileged Haitian bourgeoisie (and U.S. business interests) if
U.S. troops were pulled out. "While the U.S. soldiers' numbers
are small, the impact of their presence is great on those who
would use the bullet, rather than the ballot, to bring about
political change," wrote DeWayne Wickham in a USA Today column
about the delegation. Ironically, it is the Haitian bourgeoisie,
backed by the U.S. government, which has used the bullet to
overturn the ballot most recently. For example, some of the
Haitian businessmen in Washington last week reportedly helped pay
for a coup d'etat against democratically elected president Jean
Bertrand Aristide in 1991.
They then have the gall to blame the victims of their violence
for Haiti's present difficulties. "The issue in our country is
that our institutions are weak,'' Lionel Delatour of the coup-
supporting Center for Free Enterprise and Democracy (CLED) told
USA Today. ''But the imperfections of our leaders should not be
the factor that controls our destiny."
Now, Wickham tells us, Haiti's "business leaders" are
"stepping forward" to take control of that destiny.
Throughout history, the Haitian bourgeoisie
has used the slogan "power to the most capable" in its bids for
leadership. Today the refrain is the same.
"In the past, the best and the brightest of our people have not
gone into politics. They have gone into business," Delatour
boasted. "They have left public policy to others to manage." As
long as it was managed in their interests. But the Haitian
bourgeoisie today clearly feels threatened by the anger of the
increasingly hungry Haitian masses and the looming candidacy of
Aristide in 2000. Now, according to USA Today, the "the best and
the brightest" are going to take the reins of the nation and are
"getting involved publicly in the politics of their nation." The
delegation included such leading lights as Olivier Nadal and Axan
Abellard of the Haitian Chamber of Industry and Commerce and
banker Richard Sasinne of the CLED.
Unfortunately for them, the Haitian businessmen could probably
not even buy their way into power, as is usually done in the U.S.
"electoral democracy" model. The vast majority of the Haitian
people have not forgotten the key role the Haitian bourgeoisie
played in the 1991 coup d'etat and still call for their trial for
Furthermore, all indications are that the Haitian people plan to
vote for candidates who, like Aristide, call for justice and
oppose the neoliberal austerity and state-enterprise sell-off
championed by the bourgeoisie and the U.S. government. In this
sense, the bourgeoisie is really just appealing for U.S. bullets
to prevail against Haitian ballots.
GRISLY DISCOVERY AT TITANYEN
Authorities discovered last weekend what may be an open mass
grave in a desolate area just outside the capital city of Port-
au-Prince. The bones and skulls of at least six or seven people,
and possibly of as many as 14, have been collected and are being
analyzed to determine identity as well as cause and time of
death. Bullet shells in the area and holes in clothing suggest
that the bones belonged to people who were executed a few months
ago, possibly in April.
The area, known as Titanyen, was a dumping ground for victims of
military and paramilitary gunmen during the 1991-94 coup d'etat
and the Duvalier dictatorship. After the coup, democracy
advocates marched to the area and dedicated a monument there to
the memory of Father Jean Marie Vincent, a coup martyr.
The Haitian National Police (PNH) and the UN/OAS International
Civilian Mission (MICIVIH) have launched a joint investigation of
the site, which has so far rendered a macabre body of evidence: 3
skulls, 3 spinal cords, 5 pairs of femurs, 5 jawbones, one tibia,
and 4 shells from a .41 caliber Magnum pistol (which authorities
took the pain to point out is not standard police issue). Hair
samples suggest that the dead include both men and women.
"The bones being gathered will now be analyzed and from this
analysis we will make a determination, although the process can
take quite awhile," said Justice Minister Camille Leblanc on
Radio Metropole. "Nonetheless, I hope that rapidly we will have
the first pertinent elements which will allow us to say if these
are recent bones and human bones and at that time be able to
identify what people have recently disappeared, the conditions of
those disappearances, and to rapidly set an investigation in
Leblanc cautioned that his ministry will not come to any
conclusions until all the evidence is collected and analyzed.
Other officials have also tried to temper speculation of a mass
execution, saying that the area has historically been used as a
potter's field, that the bones were "spread out," and that the
area is often used for hunting and target practice.
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