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#3414: Stan Goff on Haiti (fwd)

From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>

| 04-28-00
| By Stan Goff
| Haiti was the world's first independent Black
| republic. It won that independence in a bloody revolt
| of slaves, who prevailed against the three dominant
| European militaries. This shattered the myth of white
| supremacy at a time when slave labor was still the
| economic foundation of every surrounding country, to
| include the new United States. As punishment, Haiti
| has been attacked, exploited, and vilified every
| since.
| That vilification is continuing apace. Unfortunately,
| the US press has been led to uncritically collaborate
| in the distortion and stereotyping of Haiti. The US
| foreign policy establishment's agenda for Haiti is
| largely determined by the orthodoxy of the
| International Monetary Fund and World Bank. The IMF
| and World Bank just became the target of massive
| protests in Washington DC on the 15th and 16th of
| April. So it may be timely to begin demystifying
| Haiti's current situation with that in mind.
| Elections for parliament in Haiti have been postponed.
| This postponement is being portrayed by an uncritical
| press as President Rene Preval ruling by decree, after
| having sacked Parliament, and trying to hang onto
| power for his former colleague Aristide. Aristide, who
| is again running for president and quite likely to
| win, is running in November. The rumor is that Preval
| is helping Aristide by postponing the parliamentary
| elections until the presidential elections, so
| Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas Party will sweep the
| parliamentary elections on Aristide's popular coat
| tails.
| The truth is that parliament's tenure was finished in
| 1999, and the majority of major political parties
| agreed to postponement of elections until they could
| be run properly. The remaining government is not
| dominated by Fanmi Lavalas or any other party, the
| ministers coming from a polyglot of political parties.
| Moreover, the separation of parliamentary elections
| from presidential elections is not mandated in the
| Haitian Constitution. That separation was the
| brainchild of the United States Embassy, who had put
| pressure on the Haitian government to separate them,
| precisely because they do not want to see Aristide and
| his party win. We certainly hold our presidential and
| congressional elections at the same time of the year.
| The United States foreign policy establishment
| demanded that Haiti not only separate the elections,
| they demanded the use of photo identification cards
| for every voter in a country where many are not
| literate, accessible by vehicle, or in possession of
| birth certificates. The cards were selectively issued,
| with massive shortages just before the scheduled
| elections in March, which caused a near nationwide
| rebellion by a populace who rightly believed that they
| were being disfranchised. That was the cause of the
| latest delay.
| In conjunction with these demands, the US aggressively
| funded-through National Endowment for Democracy
| grants-the development of a faux opposition party,
| called Espace de Concertacion. The whole purpose of
| Espace was to whittle away at Fanmi Lavalas'
| parliamentary seats. By Haitian law, a President
| Aristide must have a parliamentary majority to appoint
| the Prime Minister from his own party. The Prime
| Minister is the person who has the real executive
| authority.
| The purpose of this dual strategy, then, is to ensure
| that if Aristide gets into office, he can't exercise
| any power.
| Still the press continues to give superficial and
| distorted accounts of Haiti that leave the impression
| of general Haitian deviancy, corruption, and
| ineptitude. It seems they should look more closely at
| the long-standing relationship between the most
| specifically deviant, corrupt, and inept leaders in
| Haiti past and present, and note how often these very
| people were underwritten by the US State Department
| and the CIA.
| So what does all this have to do with the

| International Monetary Fund and World Bank? And why
| should the United States establishment be so dead set
| against Aristide?
| The International Monetary Find and the World Bank are
| dominated by the United States, and the dominant
| stakeholders in those institutions are American
| finance capitalists. In simple terms, the IMF and the
| World Bank have much in common with loan sharks. They
| do not come to countries' rescue. They hold out loans
| to desperate countries to restructure their debts, and
| take on more debt-which they can ill afford-in
| exchange for acceptance of draconian adjustments to
| economic structures that are beneficial only to a
| small local elite who are working with transnational
| corporations (TNCs). These are called structural
| adjustment programs (SAPs). Their purpose is to pry
| developing economies open for domination by the TNCs
| and international speculators.
| That's what all the hoopla was about in Washington DC
| April 16th.
| These SAPs are the lowering of tariffs, which in Haiti
| means subsidized foreign goods run local producers out
| of their own market; suppression of labor unions,
| which in Haiti means people continuing to work for $3
| a day in sweatshops; privatization of state owned
| enterprises, which in Haiti means transferring the
| proceeds to a private foreign corporation instead of
| into social services and infrastructure; downsizing of
| the public sector, which in Haiti would mean around
| 45,000 additional jobs lost in a country with over 70
| percent unemployment; imposition of taxes on basic
| commodities, which in Haiti is the continuation of a
| regressive tax system that has let the rich off the
| hook and will further immiserate the poor; and the
| cancellation of what few social services still exist
| there.
| What's the US objection to Aristide?
| He might not support this sterling program.
| The vast majority of Haitians already object to it,
| but that doesn't fit with Uncle Sam's notion of
| "manageable" democracy. Their fear is not that Haiti
| will fail in the absence of "structural adjustment."
| The fear is that they will progress. That's a very bad
| example. It's Haiti being independent again, and it
| won't be tolerated.
| The irony is that while they are trying so desperately
| to keep the lid on in Haiti, it's just come off in
| Washington DC.
| Stan Goff is the author of Hideous Dream: Racism and
| the Army in the Haiti Invasion, to be released by
| Softskull Press this fall. He lives in Raleigh, NC.
| stangoff@all4democracy.org
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