Haiti Archives 1995-1996
05/05/95 U.S./UN Troops Attack Strike Support Rally

The following article is from the May 5 issue of Workers Vanguard, the Marxist working-class biweekly of the Spartacist League. A one year subscription to Workers Vanguard is $10.00 (includes English-language Spartacist, Women and Revolution, and Black History and the Class Struggle). Make checks payable/mail to: Spartacist Publishing Co., Box 1377 GPO, New York, NY 10116.


On May 9, U.S. and United Nations troops in Haiti brutally attacked a student demonstration in support of striking teachers, arresting several students and wounding more than two dozen, some seriously. The teachers, in the first major challenge to the U.S.-installed government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, are demanding a 300 percent increase in their miserable wage of $53 a month. Their fight against budget restrictions on public education symbolizes for many the struggle against the Aristide government's IMF-imposed austerity program. When striking public school students in Port-au-Prince tried to spread their movement to a private junior high school, a fight broke out. After the police fired multiple rounds of tear gas at the students for over four hours, U.S. troops and UN "peacekeepers" moved in with their guns drawn.

Defiant protests against the occupation force and puppet regime have grown apace in recent months as illusions that Aristide would bring a better life have evaporated. According to Haiti Info (25 March), on March 14, U.S. soldiers arrested peasants who had taken over land in Quartier-Morin, in the Cap- Haitien region. Six days later, several hundred people took to the streets of Cap-Haitien to protest the U.S. occupation, high prices and privatization of state enterprises. Signs proclaimed, "IMF = High Prices" and "Down with Smarck Michel," Aristide's pro-business prime minister. And on March 24, over 200 nursing students in Port-au-Prince held a sit-in demanding reforms and were sprayed with tear gas by UN troops.

The American invasion of Haiti last September was cynically presented as a "humanitarian" mission to rid that country of the brutal military regime, successor to the earlier dictatorship of "Papa Doc" and "Baby Doc" Duvalier. But, not surprisingly, the reality has been very different. While the top generals were sent into retirement, many of the sadistic killers in uniform were simply reassigned to the "new" police force set up by the U.S. occupiers. These gun-toting killers routinely patrol Haitian cities side by side with U.S. special forces, carrying out arrests together and brutalizing the population. While Washington's puppet president Aristide repeatedly calls for "reconciliation" with the hated Duvalierist "Tontons Macoutes" murderers, the paramilitary thugs and death squads continue to sow terror and death among the population with impunity.

The Haitian masses are dismayed to see their oppressors remain, now protected by the U.S. occupation force, while they yearn for justice for the thousands who were brutally killed under military rule. But all Aristide has offered is legal assistance to those who want to sue their former tormentors! Stung by popular criticism for not bringing a single prominent Duvalierist to justice, the Aristide government persuaded Washington to arrest Emmanuel Constant, founder of the paramilitary FRAPH. Constant, whose father was a military henchman of the Duvaliers, was on the CIA payroll after the 1991 coup, carrying out a wave of bloody terror against the population and setting up the FRAPH with the help of U.S. intelligence. This notorious mass killer was allowed to enter the U.S. last December after Haitian officials issued a warrant for his arrest. Now his former paymasters intend to deport him to Haiti so that Aristide can claim to have done something to combat the Duvalierist butchers.

Many leftists and liberals were taken in by Clinton's "humanitarian" pretensions and gave open or implicit support to the military occupation of Haiti. As with the U.S. military intervention in Somalia two years ago, allegedly to combat starvation, many reasoned that things are so bad in Haiti that they could hardly get worse. But U.S. imperialism is the most powerful force for reaction in the world. Nowhere is this clearer than in Haiti today, where the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere is being further ground under the boot of racist colonial oppression. This is the inherent logic of imperialism, which is driven by the need to export capital in the inexorable search for profits.

As we go to press, a U.S. officer, Captain Lawrence Rockwood, has been court-martialed at Fort Drum, New York for taking Clinton's "humanitarian" pretensions at face value. Shortly after arriving in Haiti, Rockwood was shocked to learn of the inhuman conditions in Haitian prisons, and, after unsuccessful efforts to get his superior officers to investigate, went on his own to inspect the National Penitentiary in Port-au- Prince. He has now been discharged for "conduct unbecoming an officer" and other charges. Rockwood should be defended by the workers movement. But we do not share illusions in this imperialist military fostered by those like supporters of Sam Marcy's Workers World Party, who organized an April 27 defense meeting for Rockwood in New York City. There the assembled leftists enthusiastically cheered virtually every statement by this 15-year counterintelligence officer, even as he declared the U.S. Army "the most effective enforcer of human rights this planet has ever knownquot;!

The Clinton administration is using "human rights" as a cover to expand its military operations around the globe. In particular, it is seeking to reinforce its hegemony over the Western Hemisphere. Starting with the NAFTA rape of Mexico, Washington is seeking to organize its Latin American hinterland as a low-wage "free trade" sweatshop to compete with Germany and Japan. The Yankee imperialists want to make Haiti "safe" for U.S. exploitation by imposing a stable "human rights" puppet regime to keep down the Haitian people's already pitiful standard of living, as they have done in Grenada and elsewhere in the Caribbean. But there is a basis for common resistance. Last week, workers in the Dominican Republic, next door to Haiti, staged a general strike for higher wages, during which a worker was killed. The imperialist system, which imposes grinding poverty on its semicolonial subjects, must be swept away through international proletarian revolution. The CIA's Invasion ofHaiti

Following close on the heels of the U.S. military, an army of CIA operatives flooded the Haitian countryside, rapidly setting up the "infrastructure" for a high-tech, brutally efficient machine of repression and exploitation. They have been funneling money to "opposition" groups like the FRAPH, while seeking to buy off peasant leaders, politicians and popular organizations. Tens of millions of dollars have been allocated by the U.S. Agency for International Development (A.I.D.) to encourage the formation of a "moderate center" of Duvalierist leftovers for parliamentary and local elections scheduled for this summer. Tens of thousands of people have been given jobs on "development" projects as a way of organizing them under U.S. influence. Meanwhile, untold numbers of those who remain defiant continue to "disappear" in the night, faceless victims of the still-active death squads.

Funding for this vast operation flows from Washington through CIA conduits like A.I.D., the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the Center for Democracy. The key recipient of CIA funds in Haiti is the Integrated Program for the Reinforcement of Democracy (PIRED), led by a U.S. anthropologist with close ties to the former military leaders. PIRED accumulated a data base containing extensive personal details on 60,000 Aristide supporters and other activists by helping the INS conduct interviews of those seeking political asylum in the U.S. Another vast hit list was compiled by the Centers for Development and Health (CDS), funded by A.I.D. and employing a number of prominent FRAPH goons.

Also active in Haiti has been the AFL-CIO's notorious American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD). AIFLD chief William Doherty came to Haiti on October 12 shortly after the U.S. invasion. According to AFL-CIO News (31 October 1994), AIFLD is seeking to sponsor a federation of Haitian trade unions and to form a "tripartite organization" with U.S. and Haitian businessmen to "improve labor-management cooperation." In Latin America, the AIFLD is so infamous for its anti-labor, pro-coup activities that its parent organization is widely known as the "AFL-CIA." AIFLD organizers went ashore with the Marines in Santo Domingo in 1965 and with Reagan's 1983 invasion of Grenada, while in Guyana in 1961 and in Chile in 1973 they played a key role in CIA "destabilization" efforts to bring down left-wing governments.

With unmitigated racism and anti-Communism, the Clinton administration announced earlier this month that the U.S. would admit the 20,000 Cubans at the Guant namo naval base, but leave behind the 450 Haitian refugees there. Most will be forcibly repatriated to Haiti, including 230 unaccompanied minors. Following the wave of counterrevolution in East Europe and the Soviet Union—which directly influenced the 1989 ouster of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua and the disarming of the Salvadoran rebels—U.S. imperialist rulers are emboldened, carrying out a colonial occupation of Haiti and stepping up the drive to "roll back communism" in Cuba. And as the Castro regime makes concession after concession to the dollar economy, mass layoffs are now posed, which can only aid the forces of capitalist counterrevolution in the Cuban deformed workers state.

The left was virtually unanimous in hailing Aristide's electoral victory in December 1991, while we uniquely warned that in power he could only be a puppet of U.S. imperialism. The leftist Ha ti-Progr s at first deliriously hailed Aristide, but was sharply critical of his support to U.S. intervention. Today, Ha ti-Progr s (19 April) calls for "de-Macoutization of the institutions," "disarming of the paramilitary bands" and "ending the foreign occupation." In Haiti, on March 13 a speakout sponsored by the Solidarite ant Jen and Konbit Veye Yo groups echoed such demands, proclaiming: "President Aristide never stops saying, `Hope makes you live,' but today, we realize that that kind of hope is only making the macoutes and bourgeoisie live. The American imperialists are mocking us. Organization and action for the liberation of Haiti!" But with a perspective confined by nationalism, they have no program to mobilize the power that can defeat imperialism and its domestic lackes. Ultimately they do not go beyond impotent pressure politics.

The key to the liberation of Haiti lies in proletarian revolution throughout the hemisphere, in which the mobilization of the sizable Haitian proletariat in the diaspora can play an important role. In addition to the brutally oppressed Haitian sugar cane workers in the Dominican Republic, hundreds of thousands of Haitian workers now live in cities from Montreal to Miami. These workers can be a vital link to class struggle by the powerful North American proletariat. Communists in the U.S. must seek to win from among these workers the cadres for a Haitian Trotskyist party. We fight to mobilize the American workers in defense of their Haitian class brothers and sisters here and in Haiti against the U.S. protectorate, as part of the struggle for socialist revolution throughout the region.

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