|Haiti Archives 1995-1996|
|13/06/95||THIS WEEK IN HAITI June 7 – 13, 1995 Vol. 13, No. 11|
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* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
June 7 – 13, 1995
Vol. 13, No. 11
THE CHARLEMAGNE PERALTE CONGRESS: APN LAUNCHES ANTI-OCCUPATION CAMPAIGN
Haiti's popular sector is building its resistance to the US/UN military occupation of Haiti and to the Aristide government's concomitant policies of neo-liberal reform and reconciliation with Duvalierism. A new high water mark of this resistance came with the Third National Congress of the National Popular Assembly (APN) from May 25 to 28 in Port-au-Prince.
The APN, one of Haiti's foremost popular organizations, was born 8 years ago. During its founding congress on March 7-8, 1987, which was hosted by then Father Aristide at his parish St. Jean Bosco, the APN dedicated itself to become an independent and combative popular organization which would challenge the opportunism and treachery of Haiti's "democratic" bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, who advocated, even then, collaboration with imperialism and accommodation with Duvalierism.
These reactionary policies are now championed by the Aristide/Michel government, and APN's Third Congress focussed on "re-squaring" the struggle for the demands of the December 16, 1990 election, which promised participatory democracy, nationalism, and justice.
The Congress was dedicated to Charlemagne Peralte, the leader who led the Haitian "Caco" resistance to the 1915 US Marine invasion. The 500 delegates — peasants, workers, small merchants, artisans, students, and unemployed — all wore white T-shirts emblazoned with a photo of Peralte and the slogan: "For a Haiti which is its own master."
The themes of the Congress were Justice, Privatization, Occupation, and Elections. The delegates addressed these themes in two days of workshops which were consummated in 15 final resolutions. "The return of President Aristide on October 15, 1994 under the banner of the American military occupation and the policy of reconciliation are betrayals of the demands of the December 16, 1990 election and the three years of the people's resistance and sacrifice," the first resolution read. Another resolution noted that "the people had placed their trust in President Aristide to help advance their demands, but he has today become a puppet in the hands of the occupation forces, which do with him whatever they want." The delegates also resolved that "the APN rejects the American military occupation which is using the United Nations as a cover to protect the criminals of the September 30th coup d'etat, to destroy the country's economy, and to steal all the resources of the country."
The APN denounced as "demagogy" various Aristide government actions such as token distribution of money and food and the establishment of "Complaint Bureaus," where coup victims are supposed to individually register their lawsuits against coup criminals, and of the "Truth Commission," which is supposed to be investigating coup crimes although it recently declared that its inquiry had come to a standstill due to lack of funding. Faced with the government's lack of will and imagination in pursuing justice, the APN announced that it will form a "Commission of Popular Inquiry" to assist coup victims in finding justice for repression they endured.
Several resolutions also condemned the neo-liberal "death plan" of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which has as a center-piece the privatization of Haiti's state industries. "The death plan continues to plunge Haiti into an abyss and will bring poverty, hunger, unemployment, censorship, and repression," the APN said.
However, APN's rejection of the "occupation elections" scheduled for June 25 and July 19 was what generated the most press coverage and national attention. "The APN declares that honest, democratic, and secure elections are not possible under the US military occupation," said the resolutions. Instead, the APN called for "disarmament, justice, and disoccupation before elections."
Popular choirs, balladeers, film showings, photo displays, and literature tables all lent to the festive yet thoughtful atmosphere of the Congress. Over a dozen foreign delegates from organizations in the United States, Canada, and Argentina addressed the morning plenary sessions, carrying words of encouragement and solidarity. Several other Haitian popular organizations also sent observers.
In short, the Charlemagne Peralte Congress was a reaffirmation of the principles of popular movement and demonstrated the resolve of the APN and the Haitian people to continue their struggle for real democracy, not the variant concocted by the US strategists sponsoring the upcoming elections.
"They make us believe that our cries are worthless," sang the delegates in the APN anthem. "But history always shows them what we can do, and the clubs, guns, and schemes of the exploiters do not frighten us."
ARISTIDE GOVERNMENT HOSTS NEO-LIBERAL STRATEGISTS
After trying for two decades to reform Haiti into a modern neo- colony, foreign investors are finally rubbing their hands while they watch the Haitian government capitulate to the demands of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Among those welcoming Haiti into the fold of sheepish nations was the head of the Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America (AACCLA), a group representing more than 16,500 company and individual members. "Latin America has been a 'hot investment' market during the 1990s, as governments throughout the region have implemented broad liberalization policies aimed at both attracting new investments as well as helping domestic companies become globally competitive," said Jaak Rannik, the AACCLA president, in a May 26 press release. "Even Haiti has bought into the model."
Of course, Rannik is referring to the embrace of neo-liberalism by the Haitian government, not the Haitian people. Nevertheless, foreign businessmen are trying to convince Haitian workers that they have to make themselves "more competitive." In essence, Haitians are being told that their only hope for the future is to be cheaper laborers than anybody else on the planet. (The minimum wage is supposed to be raised from 15 to 36 gourdes — about $2.50 — which is still less than the $2.84 which prevailed during Haiti's assembly industry heyday in the early 1980's). "Competitiveness" was the principal theme of two notable business meetings in Haiti last month.
The first gathering, held May 11 and 12, was of the "Consultative Group" — the World Bank-led assemblage of international organizations such as the European Union and USAID which are trying to dictate the economic future of Haiti. Their message was the tired old prescription of structural adjustment which has brought misery to millions of people around the world — privatization, price increases on basic goods, production for export, low wages, and the elimination of tariffs. In other words, more poverty for Haiti.
During the meeting, the Haitian government obliquely complained that money was not coming fast enough. "The disbursement of funds is often done so slowly that it forces the national institutions to rely on their national resources, which are meager," whined Haitian Prime Minister Smarck Michel at the meeting.
But, the "Consultative Group" felt, inversely, that the money flow was too fast. "The disbursement of money was done in a more rapid way here than elsewhere," countered Marc Schneider of the USAID, citing as examples Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Panama. "We can all look at ways to accelerate our own internal procedures," he admonished the Haitian government. But he also kept dangling the carrot: "You're going to see the first project disbursements very soon."
The second meeting was a little more nuanced. Organized by President Aristide and misleadingly entitled "A Haitian Effort to Take Charge of our Economic Future," 400 business people from Haiti and the diaspora gathered in Port-au-Prince from May 15 – 17 at the "Economic Symposium" to hear the Haitian government promise that it would leave economic affairs to the "expertise" of the private sector. In fact, the meeting was little different in substance than two previous "Haiti Government/Business Partnership Conferences" held in July 1993 and November 1994. The neo-liberal Minister of Finance Marie Michelle Rey reaffirmed her faith in "free enterprise," the "liberalization of the economy" and competition, and stressed again the need to "attract capital to promote production," according to the bi-weekly newsletter, Haiti Info.
The business meetings were held, however, in a climate of growing protest. Public school teachers, backed by their students, launched strikes and demonstrations in April and early May to demand a 300% pay increase to compensate for the dramatic plunge of the gourde in recent years. The government, led by Education Minister Emmanuel Buteau, offered 30%. Some demonstrations turned violent in the middle of Port-au-Prince when public school students tried to get support from those in private schools. (UN troops, who refuse to "police" the country when Macoutes are involved, fired tear gas at student demonstrators.) Then President Aristide intervened. The two unions who led the struggle — Union Nationale des Normaliens d'Haiti (UNNOH) and the Corps National des Evaluateurs Haitiens (CONEH) — accepted a 120 percent salary increase. "Aristide's bypassing of (Education Minister) Buteau," noted the bi-monthly Haiti Info, "is an example of the way the government is confronting issues where the population's demands are not being met: the president intervenes personally, thus gaining political mileage and further propagating the myth that all unpopular policies are not his responsibility, but the fault of those around him."
NEW POLICE FORCE ROLLED OUT
US Secretary of State Warren Christopher returned to Haiti this week to help President Aristide inaugurate the first batch of 408 mostly US-trained Haitian police officers.
The ceremony took place June 4 at the National Palace with forced fanfare. Christopher also announced — such tramplings of national protocol are now "normal" in occupied Haiti — that the new police force would not number 3,300 officers, but 6,000.
Christopher did not explain that the US also plans to train the Haitian police officers in Alabama instead of Haiti, supposedly so that instruction can accelerate. In fact, the US simply wants to better indoctrinate the future Haitian force, just as it has done to graduates of the School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia.
By doubling its size, Haiti's new repressive force will be approximately the same size as its predecessor, the 7,000-man Forces Armees d'Haiti. Much ado is made that the new corps will be a "police" force and not an "army," but this is semantics. Haiti never really had an army i.e. a force which defended the national boundaries against an invader. The "army" has always been a repressive force for policing the Haitian masses, so perhaps the new label of "police" is better suited.
Of course, the FBI and Secret Service agents which run the US Justice Department's Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) which trained 360 of the officers — another 49 were trained in Canada — have taught the new police force to be "apolitical."
"Every day, every day, we were told, Do not meddle in politics!" one graduating trainee told Reuters. However, the Reuters correspondent noted "Aristide slipped into the partisan rhetoric that the new officers have been warned against… Aristide instructed the new officers to repeat; "Alone we are weak, together we are strong, together together we are Lavalas!"
In fact, the force is primarily being trained to respect the authority of the US government, banks, and business. Washington is trying to set in place a new "Garde d'Haiti," the force which the US Marines left behind when they ended their first occupation of Haiti in 1934.
INTERNATIONAL ANTI-IMF CONFERENCE HELD IN PORT-AU-PRINCE
PORT-AU-PRINCE, May 31 (Haiti Info) – Hundreds of participants from diverse sectors attended the International Conference Against the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and Neoliberalism from May 25 to 28 at the state university put together by a committee and dedicated to exposing the IMF's neoliberal agenda here and throughout the world.
At lectures, a concert and in workshops, the attendees listened to songs, plays and lectures from Haitian, Mexican and U.S. professors, labor and peasant leaders, artists and writers. The three days were dedicated to: "The New World Order and the Neoliberal Project," "Consequences of the Application of the Neoliberal Project" and "What Alternative?"
The conference erupted into a spontaneous demonstration against President Aristide on Sunday morning when the assembly learned he was at the General Hospital across the street. Chanting "Down with IMF!" and "Down with Aristide," about 200 people took to the street. People in front of the hospital, some say with encouragement of Haitian police, launched a counter- demonstration.
Highlights of the conference included two talks from Professor Pablo Motezuma on the history of the peasant movement in Mexico and the effects of neoliberalism on that country, presentations from Dominican and Guatemalan delegates and an analysis by Professor Alix Rene, who spoke on "The New World Order, Neoliberalism and the American Plan for Haiti."
Rene explained that IMF pressure on developing countries is meant to "remedy" the problems of entire capitalist system and help transnational corporations continue to generate profits."It's not a 'new system," he explained. "The 'new world order' is the same old system that keeps the domination of capital over production, the domination of the bourgeoisie over the workers, the domination of the imperialist countries over the dominated countries."
After two-and-one-half days of lectures, the assembly divided into nine groups to consider: "What alternative do you propose to the IMF neoliberalism?" and "What form of battle do you propose to continue the mobilization against neoliberalism?"
The resolutions were mostly specific to combatting neoliberalism, and included calls to strengthen state-run enterprises and national production, improve social services, reorganize the economy to benefit peasants and workers, and fight for a participatory democracy. They criticized the role of non- governmental organizations in demobilizing people and organizations, and called for mobilization against neoliberalism and the government through demonstrations, sit-ins and education campaigns.
The students' workshops called for an institution for continued education for workers, an anti-occupation movement and an international tribunal to judge the IMF. "Down with the puppet government! Down with 'non-governmentalist' militants! Long live the struggle for the poor masses!" one student concluded.
(This article is an abridged version of one from Haiti Info, Vol. 3, No. 17, published bi-weekly by the Haiti Information Bureau.)
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