[News] Silent Coup in Haiti

Anti-Imperialist News 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 Canada’s 
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 
Aristide’s goal of lifting Haiti from “misery to 
poverty with dignity” has always been an 
unsavoury proposal for Haiti’s narrow elite and 
their supporters abroad. Two bloody coups d’etat 
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 Canada’s 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 
<http://ijdh.org/archives/14468>Malcolm X 
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 FL’s support in a few hours. In 
March 2010, I asked dozens of people: “In the 
quake’s 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 
they’ve run in, but the US, French and Canadian 
Governments all have interests in Haiti and don’t 
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. It’s 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 
Aristide’s 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, 
Preval’s 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. FL’s last “program” was released 
11 years ago and was called “Investir dans 
l’Humain” (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 Haiti’s “second 
independence,” meaning a break with the US, 
France and Canada, taxation of Haiti’s 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 president’s party over the 
interests of the constitution and Haiti’s voters. 
The Council’s 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 FL’s 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 FL’s 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, Haiti’s 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 Aristide’s 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 president’s 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 Aristide’s 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 
Preval’s 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 
don’t, 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 it’s 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 what’s 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 
Washington’s 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 
Haiti’s 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 Haiti’s reconstruction, and provoke 
continued expensive military intervention in Haiti.

Akinyele Umoja: I resent the term “international 
community” because it doesn’t 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 doesn’t 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 don’t know what’s 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 d’etat of the past show that 
clearly. In particular, the US won’t stand for it 
because of Haiti’s 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 Pentagon’s 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 people’s 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 government’s involvement in 
the impoverishment of Haiti. If people hadn’t 
stood up around the world against apartheid in 
South Africa, it wouldn’t 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 
<http://www.haiti-liberte.com/>Haiti Liberte.

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 d’etat in 
online publications with the 
The Dominion and 
Action. His photographic installation on this 
Holdup, was exhibited at Concordia University in Montreal.
<http://www.dominionpaper.ca/>The Dominion

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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