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9809: This Week in Haiti 19:37 11/28/2001 (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 *
November 28 - December 3, 2001
Vol. 19, No. 37
WITH PRIME MINISTER BESIEGED, COUP RUMORS SWIRL
For months now, Washington has applied a low flame to its "nation
unbuilding" experiment in Haiti. Now the beaker is beginning to
Millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have been funneled to the
Democratic Convergence (CD), a hodgepodge of opposition parties
with practically no popular following. U.S. Ambassador Brian Dean
Curran has repeatedly blamed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's
Lavalas Family party (FL) for thwarting Organization of American
States (OAS)-umpired "negotiations" with the CD aimed at settling
a dispute over elections last year. Ironically, the OAS was the
body which started the dispute (over how the run-off
determination for seven Senate races was calculated), and the FL
has made all the concessions and the CD none (even though the FL
has until recently enjoyed wide popular support and the CD none).
But the most effective weapon in Washington's low-intensity war
against the Haitian people has been its blockage of international
aid. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved
$145.9 million in loans to Haiti aimed at improving health care,
schools, water systems, and roads. But the U.S. State and
Treasury departments have vetoed release of these loans to Haiti
until the electoral dispute with the CD is resolved. There are no
signs that this will happen any time soon, if ever.
Most shocking of all, Haiti must pay the arrears and interest on
the loans which have been "granted" but not yet "released." If
this situation continues for another month, Haiti will begin
having a net outflow to the IDB, paying approximately $10 million
more than it hopes to eventually receive.
Meanwhile, the country's vital statistics continue to plummet.
Four percent of the population is infected with HIV; infant
mortality is 74 per thousand; there are 1.2 doctors for every
10,000 people; only 4% of the population has access to piped
water. Dramatic statistics like these have caught the attention
of the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus which, among other
actions, wrote a Nov. 8 letter signed by all 38 members to U.S.
president George W. Bush asking that he change his "inflexible
policy" which "is contributing to the continued attrition of the
quality of life of Haiti's people" and "if left unchanged could
lead to horrendous outcomes for the western hemisphere's poorest
Despite such passionate (though likely futile) appeals, the
situation looks bleak for the FL and its government. Scandals
revealing corruption and the waste of precious public funds have
enraged the Haitian people, who have constantly been asked to
sacrifice and be patient (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 19, No. 31,
Almost daily, demonstrations erupt in cities around the country,
demanding delivery on last year's rosy Lavalas promises. Two
weeks ago in Cap Haïtien, some FL politicians attempted to
organize a pro-government counter-demonstration but were forced
to flee the street under a rain of stones and jeers. Now, some FL
politicians are trying a new tactic: they are joining in
demonstrations to call for the resignation of Prime Minister
Jean-Marie Chérestal, thereby channeling popular anger away from
the party and president who installed him.
"We are calling for a mobilization against the Chérestal
government, which is a hypocritical, anti-people government which
works against President Aristide, against the Haitian people, and
against the popular organizations," said Paul Raymond of the St.
Jean Bosco Little Church Community, an FL-aligned popular
organization. He also called for "a general mobilization without
rest in the four corners of the country in all forms, but under
the banner of peace, against the Convergence and the political
racketeers who have payoffs in their hands."
Certain FL popular organizations in the Artibonite went so far as
to take FL Senators Lans Clonès and Gérald Gilles "hostage" for a
day on Nov. 22 in the town of Pont-Sondé when the two were
returning to the capital from Cap Haïtien. Given that both
senators have made statements favoring Chérestal's resignation,
the hostage-taking appears to have been contrived. "I imagine
that the organizations had nothing against [Gilles and Clones],
but just held them to attract attention to their protest and then
released them," said Jonas Petit, an FL spokesperson.
Another FL senator admits that Chérestal's replacement can only
be a temporary solution, at best, and that the FL's strategic
reliance on U.S.-controlled aid had to be reconsidered. "If we
remain here saying that we are waiting for international aid and
that we have before us a government incapable of creativity, we
are going straight to failure," said Sen. Prince Sonçon Pierre,
president of the Senate Finance commission. "President Aristide
has always said that he prefers to fail with the people that to
succeed without them, and that with the people, we cannot fail.
In this sense, I think that we senators must reflect and see how
we can bring our contribution, not in the 'dechoukaj' [uprooting]
of an individual, but in ridding the people of this sinister
gift," i.e. a phantom interest-sucking loan.
Meanwhile, Haitian unions also have joined the chorus condemning
the FL's government. In a statement, unionists said that signs of
"anarchy" last week included a vigorously-repressed uprising at
the National Penitentiary, in which five died and many were
wounded; an "aggression" by alleged FL-linked individuals against
ex-senator Edgard Leblanc in the town of Marigot; and the murder
of two money-changers by a band of thieves who dressed as
policemen and used a car loaned to them by FL Deputy Jean Robert
Placide. The unionists, who had previously laid down a Nov. 15
deadline for a solution to the political crisis, sent out a call
"to all the nation's forces to adhere to any action" aimed at
installing a state of law and social progress. As a part of this
mobilization, the member organizations of the Haitian Union
Collective organized a meeting on Nov. 22.
Last week, FL Sen. Dany Toussaint, a former soldier, declared
that he felt all the conditions were in place for a coup d'état.
He said that today one sees the same scenario as that which led
up to the Sep. 30, 1991 coup d'état. "I think that we are in a
truly difficult moment where we are reliving what we went through
in 1991," Toussaint said. "There is a Prime Minister who is at
odds with part of the Parliament. At the National Penitentiary,
there were the same sort of uprisings. In Pétionville in 1991,
the police rose up, and the Haitian Navy rose up... Thus we see
the same thing repeating itself and that should make us reflect.
I think that this is not the moment for Lavalas senators and the
Lavalas government to enter into conflict. The same club will be
used against everybody, will make everybody flee." According to
Toussaint, this imminent coup will be the work of a "third hand"
wielding a "club which will hit the Lavalas, many people of the
opposition, and those who are in internal conflict."
Although Toussaint did not accuse the Convergence of the plot,
Evans Paul, alias K-Plim, of the KID/Espace/Convergence rejected
the idea of a coup. "When the Lavalas now cries coup d'état, it
would like to point at other people. They are looking for
pretexts to justify repression, since it is clear that the only
sector in a position to make a coup d'état is the Lavalas since
they control all the levers of the State... These are political
maneuvers to try to deflect the popular mobilization which is
crying out against hunger and against poverty, against the
pilferers of public funds. I think that it is an insult that they
want to compare the legitimate revolt of the people to a mere
plot," said K-Plim who has encouraged the anti-FL mobilization in
As usual, there is a little truth everywhere, but all of it
misleading. There is no doubt that a coup is possible and that
the present political crisis is the result of two years of
political sabotage, economic strangulation, and low-intensity
war, all supported by Washington, which has been intent on
circumscribing (in the case of the Democrats) or eliminating (in
the case of the Republicans) Aristide since he began his return
to the presidency. There is also no doubt that the Lavalas Family
has played right into Washington's game, packing its own ranks
and government with Duvalierists, putschists, and opportunists in
a futile attempt to appease Washington. It is hard now to tell
which is more responsible for the FL's accelerating collapse:
pressure from the outside or rot from within.
Aristide may soon buy some time by forcing (if he is able) the
resignation of Chérestal, with or without his cabinet. But the
crisis will not be long abated.
The National Popular Party (PPN) has called for the formation of
an "alternative front" of all rebelling sectors which are not
Duvalierist, or aligned with the Convergence or Lavalas Family.
It is now a race to see if the U.S. and its Haitian allies will
be able to consummate yet another coup, as they have on several
occasions since the fall of dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in
1986, or whether, once again, the Haitian people can snatch
victory from the jaws of defeat by reconstituting and
revitalizing the democratic nationalist movement which once
proudly wore the name of Lavalas.
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