Haiti Archives 1995-1996
09/03/96 HAITI INFO 9 March 1996, Vol. 4, #9
From: Haitian Information Bureau <hib>

(Below is the table of contents and lead story from the most recent issue of Haiti Info, the newsletter of the Haitian Information Bureau. The lead story from each bi-weekly issue is posted in this conference. To receive the entire newsletter, you may subscribe by email, fax or mail. See the subscription information at the end of this entry).


After Blustery Threats, Parliament Votes Overwhelming Approval


SMARTH PROGRAM: NO SURPRISES After Blustery Threats, Parliament Votes Overwhelming Approval

PORT-AU-PRINCE, March 9 – If some might have thought Rosny Smarth would present a different program, they were wasting their time. Without surprise, this week Smarth offered a politique generale of pure neoliberal inspiration, well- seated within the “Lavalassien continuity.” And, despite the fact that the parliamentary sessions had shaped up to be heated confrontations, they ended up sliding by like water off a duck’s back. Both houses approved resoundingly.

Standard Lavalas Program, Cabinet

After several false starts, Smarth finally went before the Senate on Monday and the Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday to read his program and present his cabinet. He returned five members of the previous administration and replaced others with well-known members of the Lavalas camp.

But if there were many familiar faces, one choice caused considerable controversy: Jacques Edouard Alexis as Minister of Education. The founder and rector of the private Quisqueya University, he was also a major supporter of the failed education symposium [see Haiti Info v.3 #23] and the “National Education Plan.” At a press conference on March 5, the student committee of the Ecole Normale Superieure (state teachers’ college) called him “the representative of private- sector teaching.”

Smarth’s program offered no contradictions with what President Rene Preval has been saying: the standard promises of stability, human rights, justice, but with a strict adherence to “exterior constraints.” Smarth claimed these could be “transform[ed]… into positive elements.” But while stressing, like Preval, “production” and people’s “basic needs,” Smarth emphasized there will be “no miracles” and that Haiti must be “better insert[ed] into the international market” and play by “the strict rules of the market.”

Chimeric Threat of Disapproval

During lengthy sessions, both Senators and Deputies harshly criticized specific points, calling for the resignation of Alexis and disapproving of the “recycling” of ministers without their being held accountable for their previous administrations. Most striking, however, were the parliamentarians’ repeated and insistent rejections of Smarth’s embrace of neoliberal policies and their apparent threats to vote against his program.

Senator Maxime Roumer made a speech about abominable conditions for factory workers and declared he would vote “against the IMF, against the World Bank” because “we cannot submit to austerity anymore.”

Senator Samuel Madistin said structural adjustment would jeopardize the government’s “capacity to respond to popular demands,” and said resolutely: “We in the Lavalas family… do not think this neoliberal orientation of the economy will take the country anywhere.”

Prior to the vote, however, the Senators went behind closed doors, during which it appears some kind of deal was cut. In spite of the strong statements from members of the “Lavalas family,” not one single Senator voted negatively, and the most virulent critic, Roumer, gave his approval. The final tally: 15 for and three abstentions (Madistin, Renauld Bernadin and Garcon Mehu).

If, behind closed doors, the “critics” were granted a compromise or concession, it was not on the essentials. To the observer, it was no more than a capitulation. Not one single cabinet member was changed and there have been no announcements of program changes. Maybe a deal was made, but if so, it was at another level. Long live transparency.

The contestation appeared even stronger in the Chamber, where almost 50 of the 74 lawmakers present asked to speak. The attacks on Smarth’s program and also on the Education Minister grew so heated that observers felt both the program and cabinet would be rejected. The chamber called a 30-minute break which stretched to two hours.

Afterwards, the barrage continued and ended with a lengthy official statement from the 67-member strong Lavalas block in the lower house, read by Deputy Jasmine Joseph. He cited articles of the constitution the block wanted respected, some of which illustrated the constitution is in contradiction with neoliberal policies like privatization.

Joseph said that the two guideposts of the Lavalas deputies were the constitution and the interests of the popular masses, and that the neoliberal orientation of Smarth’s program was not compatible with either of them. But when it came time to vote, the program and cabinet were resoundingly approved: 54 for, 3 against, 16 abstentions.

After the almost comic theater of the Lavalas lawmakers, Smarth assumed office this week, clearly acceptable, not only to the parliament but also to the imperialist tutors and the bourgeoisie. At least he offers the advantage of being clear, devoid of the populist rhetoric that characterized his predecessors, and has openly assumed the neoliberal policies already being implemented here.

Deteriorating Situation

All this took place against a backdrop of continuing deterioration. The gourde is still slipping in value, and in the capital garbage clogs the streets and gutters. [See p. 1.]

Insecurity is also mounting. In Cite Soleil on March 6, between seven and nine people were killed in a shoot-out between National Police and an armed band. Many residents fled the neighborhood and are still afraid to go home. Also recently, several were injured in a shoot-out between police and youth at a state boys home. Many neighborhoods as well as provincial cities towns are reporting an increase in attacks, armed robberies and rapes. [See also p. 3.]

Ironically, even as insecurity was rising and impunity continuing to reign in the four corners of the country, on Feb. 26 President Preval feted the end of the first U.N. occupation force’s mission by decorating its heads – U.N. Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, U.S. General Joseph Kinzer and Canadian Commissaire Neil Pouillot – as, respectively, an “Officer” and “Knights” of “Honor and Merit” in recognition of the international community’s “reestablishment of security.”


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