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8300: This Week in Haiti 19:13 6/13/2001 (fwd)
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
June 13 - 19, 2001
Vol. 19, No. 13
THE "CIVIL SOCIETY" WAR
A new organization calling itself the "Majority Civil Society"
(SCM) was launched on Jun. 1 during a press conference at the
Plaza Hotel in Port-au-Prince. The founders of the new group
defined themselves as an alternative to the "Civil Society
Initiative" (ISC), led by Rosny Desroches, who was Education
minister of the neo-Duvalierist military junta which took power
following dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier's downfall in 1986.
The ISC, made up almost exclusively of businessmen and
conservative church officials, invented itself earlier this year
to act as "mediator" in the on-again off-again negotiations
between the ruling Fanmi Lavalas party (FL) of President Jean-
Bertrand Aristide and opposition Democratic Convergence front
(CD). The SCM taxed the ISC as being a "minority civil society."
The SCM leveled a scathing indictment against Desroches's
organization for seeking "the conquest of political power and the
maintenance of economic power for a minority which possesses its
wealth through corrupt mechanisms to the exclusion of the great
majority of the population."
"In the 'Civil Society Initiative' of Mr. Desroches, do we find
the unemployed, cab drivers, peasants, students, or members of
the socio-professional sector?" asked Dr. Kalil Jean-Baptiste,
one of the SCM's founders. "I think you know the answer. For all
these reasons, we assert today, first, that the very expression -
Civil Society Initiative - of Mr. Desroches is a veritable
intellectual fraud... Secondly, this civil organization of the
minority in no way speaks in the name of the Haitian people,
because it is not representative." However, Dr. Jean-Baptiste
said that he is ready to dialogue with minority civil society
The SCM was launched by Dr. Jean-Baptiste and seven other
individuals from groups with names like the Women's Organization
of Marigot and of the Collective of Haitian Doctors. These
founders claim to represent more than 130 "civil society"
Obviously, this new "civil society" formation is close to the FL.
It emerged just as Lavalas government officials began to
vigorously denounce the ISC.
"A small minority thinks it has a monopoly on civil society,"
said Yvon Neptune, Senate president and the FL's national
representative, the day after Organization of American States
(OAS) Secretary General César Gaviria's visit to Haiti two weeks
ago. Gaviria met with the FL, CD, and ISC. In the ISC, Neptune
continued, "one finds a majority of putschists who financed the
Sept. 30, 1991 coup d'Etat. Alongside these old putschists, we
find new putschists who like to adopt democratic airs, but who
have not grasped the fact that the majority of people voted for
the Fanmi Lavalas,"
In the same vein, Communication and Culture minister Guy Paul
rightly accused the ISC of being both an umpire and player in the
negotiations around the political crisis. The irony is that the
FL itself legitimized the ISC by granting it the all but official
role of designated mediator.
Aristide, in fact, came up with the expression and name of the
new group when he said that Gaviria's visit to Haiti was a
victory of this same "majority civil society." Clearly, the very
conflict of a "majority civil society" versus a "minority civil
society" is just another episode in the rivalry between two camps
which resort to the same "political lexicon without any
preliminary definitions," to paraphrase journalist Bernard Cassen
of Le Monde Diplomatique ("The pitfalls of governance," June
2001, p. 28).
The reaction of the ISC has been swift, bitter and arrogant."Who
are these representatives who have supposedly received a genuine
mandate from a certified majority?" asked Rosny Desroches in
response to the SMC's assault. "Our point of view is that the
economic problem must be resolved in a lasting way. As quickly as
possible, we must find a solution to the political problem, to
the electoral crisis."
One of Desroches's cohorts, Edouard Paultre of the Protestant
Federation of Haiti, said with priestly false modesty that "we
don't believe we represent Haitian civil society in its
entirety," but still called the SCM's declarations "exclusive"
and inappropriate in the context of the present crisis.
Former Prime Minister designate Hervé Denis was skillfully
demagogic. "These parts of civil society -- the private sector,
the business sector -- are what the Lavalas is desperately
lashing out at today," he said, "because they have the courage to
say what they think, to make some proposals, and to get involved
in politics from now on."
One of the principal CD spokesmen, the neo-Duvalierist Hubert de
Ronceray, also came rushing to the side of his allies in the ISC.
"Civil society in its entirety has realized that definitely the
Lavalas will not compromise with it," de Ronceray said. "[The
Lavalas] got upset and mad because they thought they could have
the OAS deal only with the civil society and marginalize the
Convergence. But in the end, civil society remained in solidarity
with the national cause. When the Lavalas saw that it definitely
had nobody with it, it got mad, threw all kinds of insults, and
called the civil society things which it is not. Only yesterday
they thought it was their flunky but now want to slaughter it."
This war of words might continue for a long time. However, one
must wonder why the FL waited so long to have this reaction to
such an obvious maneuver. Since its inception, it was clear that
the ISC was not representative of anything other than Haiti's
most exclusive private interests lined up against the general
interest. In short, the bourgeoisie had come to the aid of the
At the time of the ISC's emergence, Haïti Progrès reminded
Lavalas officials of the role people like Rosny Desroches and
Edouard Paulatre played in the opposition movement launched in
1999 by arch-reactionary businessman Olivier Nadal, who now lives
in self-imposed exile in Miami. The political history of all the
ISC leaders disqualified them from any mediation initiative that
was supposed to be neutral or impartial.
But, as always, due to opportunism and lack of principle, the FL
plugged its ears and tried to make believe that wolves could
become lambs. Now that the negotiation process has suffered
practically irreversible damage because the ISC was allowed to
freely pursue its obvious reactionary objectives, the Lavalas
leadership is desperately trying to regain its footing.
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