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7707: This Week in Haiti 19:6 4/25/2001 (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 25 - May 2, 2001
Vol. 19, No. 6
SEEKING APPROVAL AT SUMMIT, ARISTIDE SLAPPED INSTEAD
Massive Protests Buffet Meeting of Hemisphere's Heads of State
by Kim Ives & Greg Dunkel
Clearly, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had hoped that his
participation in the Third "Summit of the Americas" in Quebec
City, Canada from April 20 - 22 would provide "consecration" of
his legitimacy, in the words of his Justice Minister Gary
Instead, the U.S. and Canadian orchestrators of the Summit used
the occasion to pillory Aristide and wring more concessions from
"Democracy in certain countries is still fragile," said Canadian
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who played the heavy for
Washington. "We are particularly concerned about the case of
Haiti. We note the problems which continue to limit the
democratic, political, economic and social development of this
Chrétien also pressured Aristide "to take rapid action on all of
the commitments made in December," reference to a sovereignty-
and-democracy-trampling list of eight conditions which Washington
wants Aristide to implement (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 18 No. 51,
The mainstream press took their cue and wasted no time in
lambasting the Haitian president. Aristide was "an embarrassment
to some leaders," said the Associated press and BBC. "Diplomats
said the expressions of concern about Haiti were to make sure
that Aristide can't use his presence at the summit... to claim he
has international support," the Apr. 23 New York Post reported.
Reuters said that "the Summit decided to comment on Haiti because
leaders did not want Aristide to return home in triumph."
Haitians supporting Aristide organized 8 buses from Montreal and
one from New York to hold a demonstration of about 600 in support
of Aristide outside the Summit, but this seems not to have had
much effect on Chrétien and others scolding the Haitian
Though billed as an economic summit to launch by 2005 a Free
Trade Agreement for the Americas (FTAA), a Western Hemisphere
free trade zone, the meeting mostly focused on how to politically
control a continent which is seething with discontent. Despite
the official mythology that neoliberalism promotes higher living
standards, more Latin Americans now live in poverty than in 1980,
about 36% according to the Chile-based Economic Commission for
Latin America (CEPAL), and the divide between rich and poor has
Economic hardship and disparities will grow even more if the FTAA
becomes a reality. By removing tariff barriers, U.S. capital will
steamroll Latin America's much smaller and weaker economies,
destroying farmers and entire industries with unfair competition.
Furthermore multinationals will have a much freer hand to destroy
the environment, sue governments, and repatriate profits tax-
"The hegemonic superpower is trying to dictate the conditions for
the surrender of the Latin American governments," quipped Cuban
President Fidel Castro, who has been barred from all the Summits
since the first one in Miami in 1994.
In the "Declaration of Quebec City," the 34 heads of state, with
the exception of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, pledged to "direct our
Ministers to ensure that negotiations of the FTAA Agreement are
concluded no later than January 2005 and to seek its entry into
force as soon as possible thereafter, but in any case, no later
than December 2005." But the pledge was largely meaningless,
since most of the leaders face citizens and legislatures which
may well deny them the authority to enter into such an agreement,
including U.S. President George Bush.
Only Chavez was honest about this reality. "I cannot commit
myself to the date of 2005, as that depends on assemblies,
congresses and, in the case of Venezuela, a referendum," he said.
Unable to build any real economic consensus other than some vague
generalities, the meeting sought to declare "representative
democracy," that is bourgeois democracy, as the only legitimate
form of government for the hemisphere. Once again, Chavez
expressed his reservations, pointing out that "participative
democracy," as is found in Cuba, offers another viable model.
The Declaration, which was drafted mainly by Washington, also
sought to outlaw and preemptively isolate any future
revolutionary upheavals in the hemisphere by stipulating that
"any unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the
democratic order" would disqualify a state from FTAA
participation and make it a pariah, like Cuba. Haiti was
threatened with such disqualification if it doesn't comply more
stringently with Washington's dictates. The Summit asked for yet
another delegation of "mediators" to be dispatched to Haiti to
pressure Aristide to share power with Washington's pre-fab
"opposition front," the Democratic Convergence.
To enforce this arrogant agenda, the Summit proposed to give the
Organization of American States (OAS), which Cuba calls
"Washington's ministry for colonial affairs," some teeth. "To
enhance our ability to respond to  threats, we instruct our
Foreign Ministers to prepare, in the framework of the next
General Assembly of the OAS, an Inter-American Democratic Charter
to reinforce OAS instruments for the active defense of
representative democracy," reads a key clause in the declaration,
which Venezuela again did not endorse. This is a clear proposal
to launch an OAS version of the Security Council, the United
Nations branch empowered to carry out military actions. In the
same vein, the Declaration proposes to strenghten the OAS's
ability "to better implement our Summit mandates."
Of course, the big story coming out of the Summit of was not the
meeting itself but the huge demonstrations against it. Quebec
City, chosen precisely because it is North America's only walled
city, was surrounded by 4.6 kilometers of 10-foot high chain-link
The citizens of Quebec City called this fence the "wall of
shame," an obstacle to daily routines which marred their
beautiful, historic town.
The Canadian government spent $100 million (CAN) on security
measures including the fence, 6,500 police officers, and tear-
The youth of Quebec, students and workers together, began
organizing as soon as they heard about the Summit and the Wall.
They passed the word to the youth of North America through the
internet, phone calls, trips, conferences, and leaflets. Their
message was clear: capitalist globalization would mean the end of
sovereignty and would be a victory of profit over human needs.
The free flow of capital but not the free flow of workers would
drive wages down throughout the hemisphere.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), instituted in
1994, has already destroyed Mexican agriculture and nearly wiped
out the Canadian auto industry. The FTAA would decimate
agriculture throughout the hemisphere. Farmers growing anything
produced on the factory farms of U.S. agribusiness -- corn,
wheat, cotton, beans, rice -- can't compete.
Canada, and Quebec, would loose the right to control their own
water, education and health care, which could all be privatized.
It wasn't just students who were protesting. Farmers in Canada
face growing competition from the U.S. agribusiness' use of
genetically engineered crops and called on the French farm union
leader José Bové to come to Quebec and help with the struggle.
The union movement with help from the Council of Canadians put
together an umbrella organization called Operation Springtime
Quebec 2001 (OPQ2001). The coalition got a grant of $300,00 from
the government of Quebec, which was excluded from participating
in the Summit. The slogan of the nationalist movement in Quebec
was "chez nous, sans nous, inacceptable!" (In our home, without
OPQ2001 organized a Peoples Summit, which brought together
intellectuals, academics and students, especially from Latin
America and the Caribbean, to analyze the political, social and
economic consequences of the FTAA. The Peoples Summit made a
point of inviting a delegation from Cuba.
OPQ2001 found housing for 9,000 people the night of Thursday,
Apr. 19, mostly students, mostly floor space, but indoors which
is necessary for Quebec's cold spring. That night the Convergence
of Anti-Capitalist Struggles (CLAC) and Welcoming Committee to
the Summit of the Americas (CASA) held a torchlight march from
the University of Laval to the Grand Theatre, which was warmly
greeted by people in downtown-working class districts. The march
avoided confronting the police.
The next day CLAC/CASA and the Group Opposed to the Globalization
of Markets (GOMM ) joined forces at the University of Laval and
then marched out separately, with the CLAC/CASA march heading
towards the Grande Theatre and GOMM heading for the Plains of
Once both groups reached the perimeter fence -- guarded by 6,500
cops, backed up by 1,200 soldiers -- some elements began to take
the fence down. Sections fell with surprising ease. Five to ten
large individuals would jump up and pull it part way down, then
hooks and a line would be attached to each end of the section.
Then 10 to 15 people would pull the fence down with the ropes.
When the cops brought up two mobile water cannons, people smashed
their windshields, forcing them to retreat. So the cops brought
out their tear gas, and the pattern for the next two days was
set. The people -- mainly the youth from all over Canada, the
Yukon, British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario as well as Quebec
and the Maritimes -- tried to take the fence down. The cops
responded with tear gas, but they could not drive the youth away
from the wall for any length of time. The demonstrators kept
coming back, morning, noon and night, braving water cannons, tear
gas, pepper spray and the threat of arrest.
The demonstrators cheered when the start of the Summit was
delayed for over an hour; when certain parts were closed on
Saturday to clear buildings of tear gas, and when a section of
the fence came down. Almost every head of state who spoke at the
Summit was forced to acknowledge the demonstrations in their
The support from the neighborhoods where this struggle took place
was intense. People ran hoses out of their windows or in their
yards to let protesters rinse out their eyes from the tear gas or
fill their water bottles. Older women gave protesters fresh baked
muffins; store owners in boarded- up shops opened up when they
heard people gagging or crying from the tear gas, and let them
buy water or juice and use their toilets.
The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW/TCA) local from Kitchner, Ontario
got off their buses wearing bandanas and swimming goggles to
protect their eyes against tear gas.
Both the CAW and Canadian Union of Public Employees
(CUPE/Ontario) had announced that they were considering a
breakaway from the march route that the big Quebec union leaders
had picked, since it headed straight away from the Summit and the
wall of shame that surrounded it.
The CAW has been decimated by the NAFTA."The FTAA would abolish
us," one member said. "Cars could be made anywhere." CUPE members
face the threat of privatization and layoffs as cities
consolidate and provinces cut back.
CAW brought 5,000 to 7,000 members to Quebec on April 21. CUPE,
which does not organize in Quebec, had 2,000 to 3,000.
The Metalos/Steelworkers, who feel that the FTAA would destroy
most of their work, rented a train from Hamilton, Ontario and
filled it. The demonstration visibly swelled when they marched in
off that train. They probably had a presence just slightly
smaller than CAW's. Some of Metalos' handmade signs raised the
idea of a hemisphere-wide general strike against the FTAA. There
was a contingent of the Steelworkers District 4 from Buffalo, New
York. It appeared to be the only U.S. labor contingent that came
to Quebec City.
The banners that the International Action Center, a U.S. group,
brought calling for liberty for Mumia Abu-Jamal in English,
French and Spanish were widely carried.
It was obvious that everyone knew what had happened on Apr. 20,
the turbulent first day of demonstrations. One Metalos was
overheard telling another: "You've got to compare those kids
yesterday to the Palestinian kids taking on the Israelis. They
should be an inspiration to us." The other Metalos agreed.
Still there wasn't a cop in sight, except for a few directing
traffic as the buses pulled in full and out empty. Security and
order was being provided by 1,000 members of the Federation of
Quebecois Workers (FTQ) the confederation that includes most of
the unions in Quebec affiliated with generally large,
well-established international unions.
The other large contingents were from two other labor
confederations: the CSN (Confederation of National Unions), which
contains most of the smaller unions and is closer to the Quebec
nationalist movement and the CSQ (Confederation of Unions of
Québec), which contains almost all of the teachers. Most of the
CSQ slogans raised privatization.
The CSQ even turned out its affiliate in the Gaspesie (Gaspe
peninsula) and the Iles de la Madeleine, areas 18-hours drive to
the east of Quebec City, and the North Shore, on the northern
shore of the St. Lawrence, about 8 hours drive northeast.
As for the size of this march,. the front of the march reached
the rally spot two hours before the last groups, an environmental
contingent from Greenpeace and CLAC's anti-imperialist
contingent, stepped off. The cops estimate that there were 25,000
people in the march; organizers say a figure closer to 60,000 is
accurate. Whatever the number is, everyone seems to agree that it
was the largest march ever in Quebec.
The FTQ was able to keep any major breakaway from happening, but
a few fairly small groups from the CAW, CUPE and the Metalos left
a bit later and worked their way up the hill and into the thick
of the action and tear-gas at the Grand Theatre on Boulevard
Rene-Levesque, where repeated attempts to take down the fence
were made. It was quite a sight to see union-banners flying in
the midst of clouds of tear gas. The CUPE contingent even had gas
There were other sizable marches that took place on Saturday,
Apr. 21. The Confederation of Canadian Students led about 4,000
students, according to some reports, from the University of Laval
about 2 kilometers to the Plains of Abraham, where they met a
gathering of public service unions and marched a few blocks away
from the perimeter along its length to join the main union march.
Five to ten buses from Montreal pulled into Laval too late for
the student march so the people on them just formed up and
marched down Boulevard Rene-Levesque to the action at the Grand
Theatre. All the 6,500 cops and 1,200 soldiers deployed in Quebec
City were inside the perimeter keeping the 34 heads of state and
their staffs safe.
After Seattle, Porto Alegre, Prague, and Davos, the struggle
against capitalist-led globalization took a major step forward in
Quebec the weekend of April 20-April 22, 2001.
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