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#3456: This Week in Haiti 18:7 5/3/00 (fwd)

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                           HAITI PROGRES
              "Le journal qui offre une alternative"

                      * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

                          May 3 - 9, 2000
                          Vol. 18, No. 7


“One of the most cynical, sophisticated and long-running
campaigns to destroy a genuine attempt at participatory democracy
is nearing its successful completion in the Caribbean republic of
Haiti” began an Apr. 30th dispatch from the Alternative News
Wire. The story thumbnails how reactionary forces in Haiti and
the U.S. “have conspired to block popular efforts to create a
real and meaningful democracy in Haiti” since the 1986 overthrow
of Duvalier and the 1990 election triumph of Jean Bertrand
Aristide and the Lavalas movement.

One will forgive the article’s pessimistic tone, especially given
the ferocity of the campaign by U.S. and European diplomats and
the mainstream media to lay blame for the present crisis, and for
the growing numbers of refugees leaving Haiti, at the feet of the
President René Préval and his predecessor. In the face of growing
murders, kidnapings, and violent street demonstrations,
journalists like Don Bohning in the May 1 Miami Herald have
sought to portray the Préval government as “under fire for not
acting more aggressively to halt the violence.”

Thus, Bohning and others were surely delighted on Apr. 25 to
receive an “Open Statement on the Human Rights Situation in
Haiti” signed by six human rights groups: the National Coalition
for Haitian Rights (NCHR), Human Rights Watch, Center for
International Policy (CIP), Washington Office on Latin America,
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, and the International Human
Rights Law Group.

Nowhere in the statement is there mention of the central role
played by U.S. government meddling in Haiti’s elections through
the State Department’s Agency for International Development
(USAID) or the USAID-funded International Foundation for
Electoral Systems (IFES), which is the shadow architect and
manager of Haitian elections behind Haiti’s supposedly sovereign
Provisional Electoral Council (CEP). Nowhere is the probable role
of the CIA (whose FRAPH death-squads still operate in Haiti) in
inciting or orchestrating the violence raised. Nowhere is the
pressure of the Pentagon (which has deployed troops along the
Dominican border) ever mentioned. All this despite the clear
signs that Haiti is suffering from a classic destabilization
campaign à la Allende in Chile, Manley in Jamaica, or Aristide in
1991. Instead, the statement blames the victim.

“We reiterate that the responsibility for ending this violence
and bringing the perpetrators to justice rests with President
Préval and the Haitian government,” the groups say.

They go on to pursue the real target of the destabilization
campaign. “We particularly call upon former president Aristide to
speak publicly on this issue, since most of the groups engaged in
violence in the streets - including those that burned the
opposition coalition headquarters on the day of the Dominique
funeral - claim to be acting in his name,” the statement reads.
“We are disturbed that Mr. Aristide personally has not used the
considerable moral force and political goodwill that he still
enjoys in Haiti to condemn the violence.”

This dishonest assertion - both Aristide and his party’s
spokesmen have repeatedly condemned such violence - is typical of
previous reports produced by the NCHR in collaboration with its
affiliate Humans Rights Watch, an anti-communist human rights
conglomerate generously funded by billionaire financier George

In a spooky parallel, the NCHR and Americas Watch also issued a
report in Nov. 1991, one month after the bloody military coup
d’état against Aristide, which targeted “the Aristide
government’s human rights record.” In chapters with titles like
“Aristide’s Responsibility for Popular Violence,” the report
recycled the charges compiled by another human rights expert,
Jean-Jacques Honorat, who became the first prime minister of the
illegal military regime.

Like today, in 1991, Washington fomented parliamentary
subterfuge, violence, and agitation against the Haitian
government which was met by irate crowds trying to protect their
government from being toppled. Like today, the NCHR/Watch
analysis was the same. “Aristide deserves blame for not choosing
to use his exceptional moral authority to speak out forcefully
against this violence,” the 1991 report reads. “In our view, much
of the violence could have been avoided had Aristide personally
condemned it publicly and unequivocally.”

Not ironically, this was the same position being adopted at the
time by the Bush Administration, which was looking for any excuse
to legitimate the coup and discredit Aristide. They welcomed the
1991 NCHR/Watch report with undisguised glee.

Today, Washington must be equally pleased. The NCHR-led groups
blame Haiti’s trouble on “the inability of those leaders who
opposed the Duvalier tyranny to work together for Haiti's
future,” parrot the misleading mantra that “Préval shut the
parliament in January 1999,” and champion Washington’s call to
“hold elections as soon as possible” even while noting that
“election officials [have] proved unable to manage the technical
and logistical challenges.” They also apparently see nothing
inappropriate in noting “the strength of US demands for early
Haiti elections,” as if the US had any right to make demands of
that kind on a sovereign nation.

Meanwhile, a very different report was issued by another human
rights consortium composed of the Bay Area Haitian American
Council, Haiti Reborn/Quixote Center, Global Exchange, and
Jennifer Harbury, the well-known human rights attorney. “The
Haitian people are now facing exclusionary elections, a situation
which negates the key concept of ‘one person, one vote,’” the
report said referring to the parliamentary and municipal
elections now scheduled for May 21 and Jun. 25. “According to
numerous reports, up to 25% of the eligible voters have been
prevented or deterred from registering. Although official
agencies responsible for organizing the electoral process, such
as the [CEP], insist that the majority of the population have in
fact been registered, this claim is not consistent with what we
heard again and again from religious, civic, labor, and peasant
leaders. Given that this electoral process was conceived of and
executed with the technical assistance and financial support of
various U.S.-based agencies, this problem raises special

The report lays bare the role of USAID and IFES in meddling in
and messing up Haiti’s elections. “[T]he recent voter
registration campaign, as planned and executed by the CEP with
the guidance of IFES, has shut out a significant percentage of
the Haitian population” due to the limited distribution of voter
cards and registration stations favoring upper class Haitians,
the report states. “If the official reports of almost total voter
registration go without criticism, the potential consequences are
very serious.”

But last week it became clear that the elections as now scheduled
are once again a long shot. The CEP called a meeting on Apr. 27
at the Christopher Hotel of all the political parties and the
“civil society.” Inexplicably, the diplomatic corps was also
invited, and one party, Eskamp, refused to attend in protest of
this violation of national sovereignty.

The whole affair was a fiasco, ending in shouting matches and
confusion. CEP president Léon Manus tried to calm the disgruntled
audience in the hot and crowded room by acknowledging “a certain
lack of experience and hence a certain slowness and hesitations
in the electoral process” on the part of the CEP. Clearly
however, he was only trying to prepare his audience for the
probability that the elections will be postponed for a fifth
time. The real reason is because nothing has been done to remedy
the lack of electoral cards and registration stations for
unregistered voters. However, Manus tried to put the blame on the
lack of security in the country. “If in the coming days popular
organizations continue to promote violence, to destroy the cars
of honest citizens, if fires continue to destroy property... the
elections to change the economic and social situation of the
nation will not take place,” he said.

Some CEP members were not present due to internal differences,
according to some reports. One CEP member declared that the
numerous statements made by other members were all unofficial,
because only the CEP spokesman could speak on behalf of the body.
Another CEP member threw insults at some audience members. Most
of the room ended up walking out of the meeting in disgust.

“The CEP just demonstrated that it can’t even organize a
meeting,” said Ben Dupuy, secretary general of the National
Popular Party (PPN), in a Apr. 28 press conference, “I don’t need
to tell you about its organizing elections throughout the
country. Elections can’t be held on May 21 without they’re being
a sham and anarchic. The CEP itself realizes that it can’t meet
the date because all the problems which led to the elections
being postponed in the first place have never been resolved.”

Dupuy went on to outline three principal features of the
destabilization campaign: 1) “selective assassinations” of
journalists like Jean Dominique and opposition political leaders
“to create trouble between the political parties.” 2) the sending
of agents provocateurs “to infiltrate demonstrations and create
disorder by burning things, breaking car windows, and then
blaming it on the people”which also creates an excuse for highly
unpopular opposition politicians to say that “they can’t take
part in elections even though they want elections, but everybody
knows that those politicians really want the ‘zero option’” which
calls for Préval and the CEP to resign and new presidential
elections to be held without Aristide. 3) “They are massing
Dominican troops on the border and creating tensions between the
two peoples so that if their electoral coup d’état doesn’t work,
then they can have the Dominican Army invade, and then invite the
international community to take over Haiti” again.

Dupuy also took not that certain U.S. Republicans have dubbed
Haiti a “narco-state,” to justify their aggressive deployments,
but said that “if the US has a drug problem it should do what it
has to patrol its own borders, but it is not Haiti, the Dominican
Republic or any other country which should become its border

He emphasized that the U.S. was trying to demonize Aristide and
his party, the Lavalas Family (FL) so as to prepare U.S. public
opinion for intervention.

Yvon Neptune of the FL also firmly dismissed the charges that his
party was part of kidnapings or murders. “We have noticed a
policy whereby they create a scenario and then they point the
finger at the Lavalas Family,” he said when questioned if the FL
had kidnaped Claudy Myrthil, a candidate of the U.S.-approved
opposition front Espace de Concertation for Martissant. “They are
not embarrassed to do anything at all, whether it be acts of
violence, aggression, or kidnapings, and then make theatre with

Indeed, this week Myrthil mysteriously reappeared at his home,
all bandaged up, after “disappearing” for 10 days. He was
reportedly set free in a sugarcane field. But in his confused
account of his alleged abduction on a Haitian radio station, he
refrained from saying that he was kidnaped by the FL, as his
Espace leaders had loudly asserted.

Perhaps the NCHR and the human rights groups in its train can
learn something from this episode. Certainly, some of them will
always refuse to look for the not-so-hidden hand of the U.S. in
Haiti. But others might avoid lending their services in the
future to the “cynical, sophisticated and long-running” campaign
to destabilize Haiti’s government.

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 ever 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,
D.C. 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 the parliament in Haiti have been postponed. This
postponement is being portrayed by an uncritical press as
President René Préval ruling by decree, after having sacked
Parliament, and trying to hang onto power for his former
colleague Aristide. Aristide is again running for president in
November and quite likely to win. The rumor is that Préval 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

 The truth is that the 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
Concertation. 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 on April

 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 impoverish 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, D.C..

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