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7677: This Week in Haiti 19:5 4/18/2001 (fwd)
"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 *
April 18 - 24, 2001
Vol. 19, No. 5
ARISTIDE ABOUT-FACE RENDS LAVALAS MOVEMENT
Anger and defiance has begun to erupt from several quarters of
the Lavalas movement in the wake of President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide's 180 degree political pivot shortly after his Feb. 7
In press conferences, radio programs, and street demonstrations,
former Aristide allies and even members of his own party, the
Lavalas Family (FL), have begun to denounce the new government's
rightward swing as a "betrayal" of the democratic, nationalist
ideals formulated a decade ago when the Lavalas movement was
The trouble began last month when Aristide's Prime Minister Jean-
Marie Chérestal packed his cabinet with former officials and
collaborators of the Duvalier dictatorship (1957-1986) and the
most recent military coup d'état (1991-1994) (see Haïti Progrès,
Vol. 18, No. 51 3/7/2001). The nine-member Provisional Electoral
Council (CEP) was pressured to resign and a new one was
appointed, filled, like the cabinet, with Duvalierists. Haïti
Progrès then revealed that Commerce Minister Stanley Théard had
been indicted in 1986 for bilking the Haitian treasury of
millions of dollars under Duvalier, but the government has taken
no action nor made any comment. Théard remains smugly in his
Now, around the country, protest is percolating up from the
people who fought and sacrificed to bring Aristide back to power.
"Lavalas Family members marched through the streets of Jacmel [on
Apr. 9] to make known their frustrations and the problems they
have with many of the political directions that the Lavalas is
taking these days," said FL Senator Pierre Prince Sonson. The
demonstrators denounced, among other things, that popular
organizations and the masses in general have been marginalized
while former Macoutes (as Duvalierist henchmen were called) and
bourgeois kingpins are leading figures in the government.
Sen. Sonson has also been a dissenter, not reluctant to challenge
some of his parliamentarian and party colleagues. For instance,
he denounced a move by the parliament last month to make Sen.
Dany Toussaint immune from appearing before a judge investigating
the murder of radio journalist Jean Dominique (see Haïti Progrès,
Vol. 19, No. 3, 4/4/01). As a result, Sonson has been vilified as
a foreign agent and traitor by some party members. On the night
of Apr. 13, his home was stoned and fired at with automatic
weapons. "I defy anyone to challenge my commitment to the true
Lavalas, to the ideals of Dec. 16, 1990," Sen. Sonson said,
referring to the date when Aristide was first elected president
on a platform of justice, transparency, and participation. "I
will continue to work in the Senate to find justice for the
people and to chase out the drug-dealers and the corrupted."
On Apr. 10, several dozen pro-Lavalas demonstrators rallied in
front of the National Palace to denounce Duclos Bénissoit, a
director of the Lavalas-affiliated Service Plus bus line, for
corruption and to demand his removal. He, too, remains in his
Meanwhile, Kozepèp, a pro-Lavalas Artibonite Valley-based peasant
organization, revealed this week that it is once again the target
of threats from "a sector of the Lavalas." Kozepèp leaders had
previously been intimidated by Lavalas sectors last September
when they sought to organize a political meeting in Mirogoâne and
just weeks ago when they were mobilizing for the Apr. 3
anniversary of Dominique's death (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 19, No.
3 4/4/01). Kozepèp leader Charles Suffrard said that certain FL
leaders were conducting themselves as Duvalierists once did, with
brutality and arrogance. "When a guy does whatever he wants,
perhaps a crime, corruption, or even theft, one feels afraid to
ask him what is going on," Suffrard said.
Some of the sharpest criticism has come from the National Popular
Party (PPN), which had been a close FL ally in the struggles
leading up to Aristide's inauguration. In an Apr. 2 press
conference, PPN secretary general Ben Dupuy charged the FL with
"betrayal of the ideals of Dec. 16, 1990."
Transparency? Dupuy asked. "We see a number of people in the
government now... who came to power without a penny and today
they have lots of capital, huge palaces, and big institutions,"
Dupuy said. "Nobody knows where that money came from and they
have never abided by the Constitutional requirements" of filing a
financial disclosure statement on entering and leaving office.
Participation? "If there is participation, it is only for the
Macoutes and bourgeois whom they used to qualify as 'pocket
patriots'," Dupuy said.
Justice? "Until now, we see that the justice system is blocked,"
Dupuy said. From the Duvalier years, the post-Duvalier
dictatorships, the coup, and recent times, Dupuy pointed out that
there are still no results in the prosecution of political
crimes, like the assassinations of Jean Dominique, Antoine
Izméry, Jean-Marie Vincent, and Father Jean Pierre Louis.
Furthermore, no action has been taken to prosecute those accused
in the Truth and Justice Commission report of coup crimes, which
was hand-delivered to Aristide on Feb. 5, 1996, Dupuy remarked.
Meanwhile, economic crimes, like the Théard's corruption scandal,
are also being swept under the rug. Dupuy referred to a thick
dossier which he secured in 1987 detailing how Jean-Claude
Duvalier and his clique embezzled over $510 million from public
coffers. "In 1987, I personally gave this documentation to
Aristide who in turn gave it to then Justice Minister [Vincent]
Bayard," Dupuy said. "Since that time, zilch has happened." Those
who plundered state funds are not being prosecuted, they are
being rewarded with government posts, he said.
On top of all this, the PPN and a number of other groups have
remarked that, with former World Bank economist, Duvalierist
Finance minister, and putschist prime minister Marc Bazin as
Planning Minister today, the Aristide/Chérestal government has
embraced Washington's long-prescribed "structural adjustment"
policies. "It is the complete application of the neoliberal
plan," Dupuy said, "what they used to call 'the death plan,' 'the
American plan,' and which the Lavalas swore that it was never
going to apply."
This week the Aristide government was seen skipping ever more
merrily toward the neoliberal rainbow as it expressed delight to
be participating in the "Summit of the Americas" being held in
Quebec City on Apr. 20, where thousands of anti-neoliberal
demonstrators are expected to protest. Aristide also requested
that the United Nations restation its political overseers in
Haiti, a mission which pulled out of the country Feb. 6.
Meanwhile, Aristide has received at the National Palace figures
like Duvalierist ideologue and broadcaster Serge Beaulieu, who
was jailed for involvement in the Jan. 6, 1991 coup, which sought
to thwart Aristide's first inauguration, who was freed during the
Sept. 30 coup, and who threatened Jean Dominique's life on the
airwaves not long before his murder.
Despite his ever accelerating capitulation and reversal, Aristide
has still tried to summon some magic from his bag of tricks. On
Apr. 10, the President and First Lady received a few hundred poor
people for lunch at the Palace, a lame replay of the Feb. 9, 1991
"breakfast for the poor." The invitees each received a small gift
and an envelope containing 1000 gourdes (about US$40) from the
President and his ministers. "I don't want misery to make you
lose hope," Aristide declared. It was a symbolic event, one might
say. But also symbolic and significant was the number of poor who
were not chosen at the gate to partake in the feast and who had
to be dispersed by police. This event alone demonstrates the
limitations of this sort of stagnant populism, which must resort
to the Haitian ruling class' age-old device, paternalism.
Most ironic of all is that, while 1000 gourdes might give someone
hope for a few days, what would really help the poor to survive
is more schools, hospitals, water pumps, and jobs, all of which
are now being prepared for sacrifice on the altar of
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