[News] Silent Coup in Haiti
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Sep 20 18:54:21 EDT 2010
Silent Coup in Haiti
Written by Darren Ell
Monday, 20 September 2010 17:12
Source: <http://www.dominionpaper.ca/>The Dominion
Once again, the people of Haiti are being
denied the government of their choosing. While
mainstream media has focused public attention on
ineligible candidates such as hip-hop artist
Wyclef Jean, the most popular political party in
Haiti, Fanmi Lavalas, has been banned from the
November 28, 2010, Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
Fanmi Lavalas (Lavalas, or FL) grew out of the
Lavalas movement that brought down the US-backed
Duvalier dictatorship and ushered Jean-Bertrand
Aristide to power in 1991. In 2000, during the
last democratic election the party was permitted
to participate in, it won 90 per cent of
Haitians' votes, the equivalent of Canadas
Conservative, Liberal, NDP and Green parties
combined; or the equivalent of the US's combined
electoral support for Republicans and Democrats.
Lavalas' progressive democratic program and
Aristides goal of lifting Haiti from misery to
poverty with dignity has always been an
unsavoury proposal for Haitis narrow elite and
their supporters abroad. Two bloody coups detat
have unseated Aristide: the first in 1991, backed
by the US, and the second in 2004, supported also
by Canada and France. In each case, thousands of
FL activists and supporters were murdered and
imprisoned, and Aristide was sent to exile in
February 2004. Since the 2004 coup, FL has been
banned from participating in Haitian politics.
Support for the party remains strong, though it
currently faces significant challenges beyond its
exclusion from the elections. The government of
Rene Preval, on the other hand, is widely
unpopular, especially in the aftermath of the
catastrophic January, 2010 earthquake. An
estimated 1.7 million survivors now live in
unsafe, unsanitary makeshift camps for the
internally displaced, facing food insecurity and
forced evictions. It is in this climate that the
November 2010 elections will be held.
To discuss the crisis of democracy, The Dominion
spoke with some key political figures on the
ground in Haiti and abroad. Brian Concannon is a
founder and director of the
<http://ijdh.org/>Institute for Justice and
Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), a US-based grassroots
organization that does human rights advocacy and
pursues legal cases in Haitian, US and
international courts. Kim Ives is a member of the
editorial board of
<http://www.haiti-liberte.com/>Haiti Liberte, a
progressive Haitian newspaper. Roger Annis is one
of Canadas foremost Haiti solidarity activists
and a member of
<http://canadahaitiaction.ca/>Canada Haiti Action
Network. Akinyele Umoja is an Associate Professor
of African-American Studies at Georgia State
University and founding member of the
Grassroots Movement. He recently returned from
meetings with popular organizations in Haiti.
Nora Rasman is the Interim Director of Latin
America and Caribbean Policy at
Forum. She specializes in UN interventions in
Haiti and has extensive post-earthquake experience on the ground in Haiti.
Darren Ell: Is there any way of knowing if Fanmi
Lavalas is as popular today as it was prior to the earthquake?
Brian Concannon: The best way of measuring its
popular support would be through a fair election,
but the Haitian government is not allowing that
to happen. Other indicators of its popularity,
which have correlated to electoral landslides in
the past, point to continuing support for
Lavalas. These measures include my own surveys of
people I meet in Haiti, attendance at
demonstrations, statements from grassroots
leaders and perhaps most indicative, the efforts
that Lavalas opponents at home and abroad are
making to prevent the Haitian people from freely choosing their leaders.
Kim Ives: Anybody doing a cursory sidewalk poll
can establish FLs support in a few hours. In
March 2010, I asked dozens of people: In the
quakes aftermath, would you like to see the
return of President Aristide? The responses came
back 90 per cent in favor, 10 per cent against.
Another key indicator of that support was the
success of the April and June 2009 nationwide
boycotts of the partial Senate elections, where
less than five per cent of the population participated because FL was excluded.
What is the reason for Fanmi Lavalas popularity?
Brian Concannon: When I have asked this question,
Haitian votersmany of them critical of some FL
policies or leadersusually say, Because Lavalas
(or President Aristide) has not betrayed the
Haitian people. Voters believe that FL at least
tries to implement progressive policies designed
to promote social equality in Haiti and improve
the lives of the majority of Haitians who are
poor, and resists pressure from Haitian elites
and the international community to increase social inequality.
Akinyele Umoja: Lavalas has won every election
theyve run in, but the US, French and Canadian
Governments all have interests in Haiti and dont
want to see the Lavalas agenda put forward. FL
invests in people, emphasizing infrastructure
investment in schools, roads and hospitals. That
is not the priority of foreign interest or the
Haitian elite. Its quite shocking that despite
the repression people have endured for voting for
Lavalas in the past they still remain loyal to the party.
Kim Ives: Besides their investment in the poor
majority, FL really is the people. There are
dozens of different bases (baz), often with
rivalries and political differences. The national
leadership is weak and not really respected, but
the idea and symbol of popular power still remains with FL and Aristide.
What is the current state of Fanmi Lavalas? How
organized is it and how did the earthquake affect
it? Are there splits in the party?
Akinyele Umoja: As someone who has worked in the
civil rights movement in the US where repression
was long and intense, I know that repression has
a negative effect on any such movement. Party
representatives I met in Haiti suggested that
this has occurred in Haiti and that the movement
is not consolidated. Yet it seems to have
widespread support. On the celebration of
Aristides birthday on July 15, 12,000 people
marched. If they can do that, they can mobilize people politically now.
Kim Ives: FL is rent by splits, has weak national
leadership, and has a very ambiguous official
program, all of which is complained about by its
entire membership base. It is organized around
small groups called Ti Fanmi which often have
disputes with each other. Aristide designates its
leaders but they are unpopular with or unknown to
the base. While the base might remain strongly
attached to Aristide, it often resents and
rejects his appointees. This is currently the
situation with, for example, Dr. Maryse Narcisse.
Despite this leadership void at the top, the
mid-level Lavalas leaders are very strong and
dynamic. Many of them are leaders in coalitions
like PLONBAVIL and Tet Kole Oganizasyon Popile.
They generally are more radical than the official
party line, calling for things like an end to the
foreign military occupation of Haiti (a call
Narcisse has never made), the overhaul of the
Provisional Electoral Council (Conseil Electoral
Provisoire, or CEP) that approves candidates,
Prevals resignation and the formation of a
provisional government to hold elections. Much of
this Lavalas base has also been involved in the
defence of women subject to rape in the IDP
camps, and the defence of the IDP camp residents from eviction by landowners.
How does Fanmi Lavalas platform differ from that of other candidates?
Kim Ives: Generally, candidates in Haiti have
very conventional and harmless platforms, calling
futilely for things like jobs, education, health,
roads and so on. FLs last program was released
11 years ago and was called Investir dans
lHumain (Invest in People), but FL has always
been defined, despite attempts to dilute its
message and ranks, by the program put forward by
the Lavalas movement leaders, headed by Aristide
in 1990, who called for Haitis second
independence, meaning a break with the US,
France and Canada, taxation of Haitis rich to
benefit the poor, and the political
marginalization of anti-democratic forces like
the Duvalierists and neo-Duvalierists. But
officially in 2010, FL is not proposing anything
radically different from any of the other candidates.
Why have so many observers stated that the
CEP,the organization that approves the official
list of candidates, is not credible?
Brian Concannon: The CEP was chosen in 2009
through an unconstitutional process that gave the
president undue influence over the choice of
councillors. Over the past year, the Council has
confirmed the fears of observers across the
political spectrum that it would advance the
interests of the presidents party over the
interests of the constitution and Haitis voters.
The Councils most egregious act has been the
unjustified disqualification of 14 political
parties from across the spectrum, including FL,
from the legislative elections. A detailed
<http://ijdh.org/archives/13138>analysis of the
problematic nature of the CEP is available on the IJDH website.
Why has the CEP banned Fanmi Lavalas from the electoral process?
Brian Concannon: The CEP provided verbal
justifications for FLs banning from the upcoming
2010 legislative elections, none of which was
formally stated in a legal document, and none of
which is legally justified. The Council initially
claimed that a mandate sent by President Aristide
to allow another party leader to register FL
candidates was not authentic, then that it was
not appropriately notarized. When both those
claims were disproven, the Council changed course
and said that FLs failure to file some documents
before the April 2009 Senatorial elections (from
which FL was also illegally excluded) prevented
its participation in the elections.
FL was banned from the upcoming 2010 Presidential
elections by a CEP decree that parties could not
register unless the head of the party registered
in person. Haitian law provides no basis for such
a claim. In Haiti as in Canada or the US, people
are freely allowed to delegate authority through
authenticated written instruments. This action by
the CEP was clearly aimed at FL, because it is
the only party whose leader is in involuntary exile.
If Fanmi Lavalas cannot run candidates, what choices are left to Haitians?
Kim Ives: Many Haitians will seek to boycott the
November elections if they go forward (and that
is a big if) or to disrupt them in other ways.
Some may support the candidacies of the stealth
Lavalas candidatesthose who are posturing to be
seen as Aristide's heir: Jean Henry Ceant, Yvon
Neptune, Leslie Voltaire, Yves Christallin or Dr. Gerard Blot.
The IJDH has detailed the challenges the
earthquake created for elections: the loss of
innumerable identification cards, identifying the
deceased in the electoral lists, the destruction
of polling stations and the displacement of the
population. They have also stated that if
elections are not held, Haitis extraordinary
difficulties will be compounded by the lack of a
credible, democratic power in Haiti. What could
be the consequences for Haiti if credible
elections are not held? How is this going to play
out on the ground in Haiti given the post-earthquake reality?
Kim Ives: If credible elections are not held,
which is likely, a large percentage of the
population will boycott the polling.
Alternatively, the population could, in an
unofficial manner, vote in large numbers for one
of the stealth Lavalas candidates, or possibly
even for former Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard
Alexis if he continues to make Aristides return one of his principle planks.
Under the first scenario, the winner of the
election will be seen as illegitimate by the
population, leaving a very fragile political
situation. The slightest incident (historically,
usually the shooting of children) could set off
riots and calls for the presidents resignation.
This is, of course, why the UN occupation troops
remain deployed in Haiti: to repress precisely this type of popular uprising.
In the second scenario, if one of the stealth
Lavalas candidates manages to get a popular
following and take the vote in some way, then
that candidate would come into office with a
great deal of popular expectations riding on him.
He will then either betray that popular trust put
in him by toeing the line like Preval did, or try
to challenge the restrictions placed on him by
the UN forces, the Interim Commission to
Reconstruct Haiti and the international financial
institutions. If he does this, he will quickly be
demonized and eliminated in one way or another.
Betrayal however is the most likely outcome.
In either case, the constellation of progressive
groups orbiting the offices of the Bureau des
avocats internationaux (BAI) and Haiti Liberte
will continue to gain strength and credibility,
as their predictions of either bogus elections or
a betraying leader are borne out. This embryonic
resistance front, in turn, will eventually
crystallize into a more organized and disciplined
organization or a broad social movement under the
leadership of a symbolic leader, similar to what is happening in Latin America.
How this later aftermath would play out depends
on whether Aristide returns or not. If Aristide
did return, it would only be if one of the
stealth Lavalas candidates, or Alexis, wins. On
his return, although he would devote himself to
his university and foundation, Aristide would
become a huge power broker. However, Washington
will do everything in its considerable power to prevent Aristides return
What has been the reaction in Canadian and
American political circles to the banning of
Fanmi Lavalas from the 2010 elections?
Roger Annis: I'm not aware of a single Canadian
political party or representative aware of the
undemocratic character of the upcoming election
in Haiti or voicing concern about it.
Interestingly, the federal government is by all
accounts following developments closely. Minister
of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon was in Haiti
for three days in early May to get a first-hand
look at Canada's support for prisons and police
training and equipping. He announced new spending
in those areas and he was an early voice speaking
in support of a sham election.
Haiti Liberte has called the sham election "the
first order of business of the Haiti Interim
Reconstruction Commission." In other words, while
we were treated to words and speeches by the
foreign powers following the earthquake in favor
of meaningful aid and reconstruction, what we
have received is an inadequate or failed relief
effort combined with a near-stealth plan to
impose a fraudulent election that will, again in
the words of Haiti Liberte, "lead the country
towards a deepening dependence on the imperialist
countries, feet and hands tied as in the olden days of slavery."
Brian Concannon: There has been very little
interest in American political circles.
Representative Maxine Waters, who regularly
stands up for justice in Haiti, has been trying
to raise interest in the US House of
Representatives, with little result so far.
Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a
report in June that strongly criticized the
political party exclusions, and suggested that
the US reconsider its support for the flawed
process. That report had little impact.
The US Administration, like much of the official
International Community, believes that President
Prevals team has done a good job managing Haiti,
including advances in financial accountability
and transparency, and would like to see that team
continue to run Haiti. This is a short-term
expedient that will come back to haunt the US,
Canada and other countries because the elections
will not produce a government with the political
or moral legitimacy to effectively implement a
reconstruction plan. The government will have to
make very difficult decisions (such as about
rural versus urban spending, initiatives
supporting the middle class versus the poor,
etcetera) and request its citizenryalready tired
and angryto make more sacrifices. This will be
very difficult for a government lacking popular support.
To some extent, the Haitian government and
MINUSTAH (the UN forces) will be able to keep
basic peace by force of arms, but that will not
allow effective governance. I also fear that
citizens who feel they cannot choose their
government through the ballot will engage in more
disruptive tactics, which will lead to social
unrest and possibly a violent response by the
police and MINUSTAH, which will in turn touch off a cycle of violence.
Akinyele Umoja: A minority has called for the
inclusion of Lavalas because they know if they
dont, the elections could be easily exposed as
unfair. Others hope for some minor Lavalas
representative to be included and co-opted into a
different platform. The dominant view remains
unchanged. The blocking of Lavalas has the
blessing of the US and surely the blessing of Bill Clinton.
How about Canadian and American media? We hear a
lot about Wyclef Jean but nothing about Fanmi Lavalas.
Roger Annis: Canada's media has failed to inform
Canadians about the flawed election in the
making, including the formal exclusion of Haiti's
only mass representative party, Fanmi Lavalas.
This is not simply oversight or ignorance. I have
conducted extensive correspondence with programs
and senior news editors at CBC Radio about this
matter, for several months now. They are either
disbelieving or disinterested. The same can be
said for the editors of Canada's print media.
This is not a proper response from a serious
media outlet, but sadly, Haiti does not seem to
merit the same standard of journalism that might
apply to similar situations in other countries.
Imagine, for a moment, that the government in
Venezuela was conducting that country's electoral
affairs in a way similar to Rene Preval's
discredited regime in Haiti. Canada's editors and
news writers would be screaming, and writing, at
the top of their lungs. And we wouldn't hear the
end of it from the federal government.
All this places major responsibilities before the
Haiti solidarity movement and to anyone else in
Canada concerned about Haiti's fate. Will we let
this sham electoral process pass unchallenged? I
am confident that we won't, that we will find the
means to assist the people of Haiti who are
waging the battle for democracy, social justice
and electoral accountability. That's what got the
Canada Haiti Action Network started in the first
place, in 2004, and it's where we must keep moving.
Nora Rasman: Due to his international notoriety,
Wyclef Jean brought the elections issue to the
forefront for a short time when he declared his
candidacy, was rejected and repealed. It is
positive that any attention around elections has
been generated, but very little media coverage
has addressed the fundamental problems with the
upcoming elections. If the immediate concerns of
those affected by the quake are not addressed,
the reconstruction and long-term rebuilding
process will exclude the Haitian majority and
increase the possibility of political instability.
Brian Concannon: The mainstream American media
has a bias towards covering personalities over
policies in all elections, including our own.
Reporters and editors claim that its what
Americans like to read. The Wyclef Jean coverage
carries that bias to an extreme. It has devoted
extensive space to a clearly ineligible candidate
with no political experience running with a party
that has never won any elected office. At the
same time, it ignores the disqualification of the
party that has won every free election held in
Haiti for 20 years, always by a landslide.
The US equivalent to whats happening in Haiti
would be President Obama forming a new party
before our 2012 elections, and announcing that
the Democrats and Republicans were disqualified,
then California Governor Arnold
Schwarzeneggerwho was born in Austria and thus
constitutionally barred from the
Presidencyannouncing his candidacy, then the
press foaming at the mouth about how his entry
into the race has energized action hero movie
fans, while ignoring the disqualification of the
parties that win every election.
Kim Ives: Wyclef Jean made it clear that he would
head a pro-US administration and work with the UN
and USAID. Meanwhile, Washington and its media
are trying to turn the page on the Lavalas
movement. The first stage is always to ignore and
minimize it. If FL continues to stymie
Washingtons agenda in Haiti, the mainstream
media will set about demonizing the FL and its
leaders, just as it did six years ago.
Is it fair to say that the international
community does not want to see democracy in
Haiti? And if so, why, especially considering
Haitis great need and the sums of money promised
for reconstruction by the international community?
Brian Concannon: The international community
wants to see a democracy in Haiti that betrays
the desires of Haitian voters in favor of the
dictates of the international community and
Haitian elites. This is obviously problematic
from a moral and ethical perspective, but it is
equally problematic from the perspective of a
North American taxpayer. President John F.
Kennedy famously remarked that those who make
peaceful revolution impossible make violent
revolution inevitable. The International
Community seems intent on proving this maxim over
and over. As long as Haitian voters are not
allowed to choose their leaders, there will be
violence in Haiti (mostly coming from
anti-democratic forces, but some from democratic
forces as well), which will imperil any money
provided for Haitis reconstruction, and provoke
continued expensive military intervention in Haiti.
Akinyele Umoja: I resent the term international
community because it doesnt refer to the people
in these countries. It refers to very specific
interests in the US, France and Canada. In the
US, the Monroe Doctrine states clearly that the
US will control the Caribbean and the Americas to
suit its needs. The US doesnt like any country
that seeks a political or economic course
independent of its own. Ordinary people would
support democracy in Haiti, but they get so much
disinformation that they dont know whats really going on.
Kim Ives: The US, France and Canada cannot
tolerate any sovereign and nationalist state in
Latin America, least of all Haiti. Their
subversion and coups detat of the past show that
clearly. In particular, the US wont stand for it
because of Haitis geopolitical position across
the strategic Windward Passage from socialist
Cuba and its sharing of the island with the
Dominican Republic (DR), an important US ally and
business partner. Any radical progressive social
change in Haiti would have a huge impact on the
DR, where many Haitian migrants and Haitian
ancestry Dominicans live, many travelling back
and forth between the two countries.
Haiti is also, after Cuba, the most populous
nation in the Caribbean, and in many ways, Latin
America's most African country. Racism has played
a major role in Haiti's subjugation, denigration,
and constant political crisesstoked by North
America and Europe since Haiti's ground-breaking 1804 revolution.
The great sums of money promised to Haiti after
the quake are primarily earmarked to go to US
contractors like Halliburton, DynCorp, and
Kellogg Brown & Root [now KBR]. The
reconstruction is a golden opportunity to
channel billions to the Pentagons principal
contractors and rebuild Haiti as Washington sees
fit (ie; more like Puerto Rico, a US colony whose
national economic independence has been almost
completely repressed, subjugated or consumed by
US multinationals, which have polluted the
environment, doctored the legal and political
system and corrupted the Indigenous culture).
This is why the US has essentially taken over the
Haitian government through the Interim Commission to Reconstruct Haiti (CIRH).
How important is this election to Haitians,
especially given the struggle for survival since the earthquake?
Nora Rasman: The exclusion of FL has added
skepticism to peoples views on the usefulness of
these elections. For many of the camp leaders and
those living in camps, elections are not a
priority because there are so many other
outstanding immediate issues on the table,
including securing basic goods and services on a
daily basis. People affected by the
earthquakeparticularly those who have been
internally displacedare challenged to obtain
consistent access to food, water, health,
sanitation and washing services, education or job opportunities.
Akinyele Umoja: In the camps, the main issue is
survival: safety, health and food. But people are
tying it to politics. They see themselves as
Lavalas, so they feel that if their party was
allowed to participate, they would be interested
in the elections, but with the current group of
candidates, they just see it as a sham that will not help them at all.
What can concerned citizens in Canada and the US do about this issue?
Brian Concannon: Concerned citizens outside of
Haiti need to protect our ideals, our tax dollars
and Haitian voters against our own governments
polices, by 1) staying informed about Haiti, and
2) staying involved. The IJDH has a program
called "Half-Hour for Haiti," which helps people
do both. Anyone can sign up on our
Nora Rasman: Concerned citizens abroad can argue
for free, fair and transparent elections to move
forward. Holding your government, as well as
national and international non-governmental
organizations, accountable for their activities
is of the utmost importance. To this end, we
suggest that people become engaged by contacting
their elected officials to tell them the crisis
on the ground has not ended while emphasizing the
need for Haitian civil society organizations to
be part of the long-term planning for
reconstruction, including the electoral process.
Or building concrete relationships with
solidarity organizations in Haiti, the US and
Canada, organizations that support a fair and
representative electoral processes.
Akinyele Umoja: We need to challenge our own
governments. In the US, we need to ask ourselves
the question of how Aristide can be returned to
the country because we took him away. We need to
understand our own governments involvement in
the impoverishment of Haiti. If people hadnt
stood up around the world against apartheid in
South Africa, it wouldnt have fallen, and we
need to do the same work around the issue of Haiti.
Kim Ives: People should provide material and
financial support to the resistance being carried
out by coalitions like PLONBAVIL, groups like the
<http://ijdh.org/>Institute for Justice and
Democracy in Haiti and
<http://ijdh.org/about/bai>Bureau des avocats
internationaux (BAI), and media like
Originally from Saskatchewan, Darren Ell is a
teacher, photographer and freelance journalist
residing in Montreal. Between 2006 and 2008, he
documented the legacy of the 2004 coup detat in
online publications with the
The Dominion and
Action. His photographic installation on this
Holdup, was exhibited at Concordia University in Montreal.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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