[News] Haiti: The Next Round

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jun 28 13:39:20 EDT 2011


by Robert Roth

On March 18th, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide 
and his family returned home from a 7-year forced 
exile in South Africa – an exile brought about by 
the violent U.S.-orchestrated coup in 2004. Up 
until the last minute, the U.S. government tried 
to stop the return, with President Obama going so 
far as to place a last-minute call to President Zuma of South Africa.

In a speech at Toussaint Louverture airport in 
Port-au-Prince, Aristide commented on the 
undemocratic elections then taking place in 
Haiti. He stressed the need for including all 
Haitians in the political process of the country, 
including his party, Fanmi Lavalas, the most popular in the country.

"The problem is exclusion. The solution is 
inclusion. Exclusion of Fanmi Lavalas is the 
exclusion of the majority. And the exclusion of 
the majority is like cutting off the very branch 
we are all sitting on. Every Haitian without 
exception, because every person is a human being, 
so the vote of every person counts."

Thousands of Haiti’s poor followed his car as it 
moved from the airport, through the streets of 
Port-au-Prince, and towards his house. Then a 
roar erupted and thousands of people climbed over 
walls, rushed past security and engulfed the 
courtyard.  They were exuberant, singing and 
chanting for hours: "Welcome back Titid. Welcome 
back schools. Welcome back hope." "Lavalas – We bend but do not break."

It was a beautiful moment, made possible by years 
of sacrifice and effort by Haiti’s grassroots 
movement, aided by a determined international 
solidarity campaign.  For those who had doubted 
that Aristide’s return was possible – and there 
were many, both within and outside of Haiti – it 
showed, once again, the power of the people.

Aristide’s return demonstrates Haiti’s 
independent will and self-determination. He 
brings back a deep, abiding respect for the poor 
of Haiti and a belief in their intelligence, 
their wisdom and the justice of their demands. 
His return challenges the racist notion that the 
poor of Haiti can only look to the U.S., the UN 
and the NGO’s for relief and development. This is 
why he is loved and this is why he is feared.

Aristide has made clear that his focus will be 
education. Haiti’s education system has always 
enforced the system of social apartheid – 
completely eliminating the poor while building up 
a small elite. During the Lavalas 
administrations, more schools were built in Haiti 
than in its entire history.  Adult literacy 
programs – often led by women – reduced the 
illiteracy rate.  When the Aristide Foundation’s 
University (UniFA) opened a Medical School in 
2001, it recruited students from the poorest 
communities throughout Haiti, each of whom 
committed to return to their communities upon 
graduation.  These were revolutionary initiatives 
in a country whose elite despise the poor and 
have worked for generations to keep them away 
from any form of literacy or higher 
education.  It was no accident that U.S. and UN 
forces drove students out of the campus after the 
2004 coup and turned the building into a military barracks.

Even with limited resources, Aristide’s return 
will generate the impetus to reopen the medical 
school. The Aristide Foundation’s continuing work 
among youth – a Youth League has begun, with over 
1000 young people meeting at the Foundation a few 
months ago –reflects a growing mobilizing of a 
new generation of activists, whose dynamism will 
be needed in this next phase of Haiti’s 
development.  And – given a little time - the 
thousands of dedicated grass roots organizers, 
whose work has never ceased in all these years of 
repression and occupation, will surely regroup and make their demands heard.

The task is daunting. Aristide returns to a 
colonized country.  Bill Clinton has set up an 
Interim Recovery Commission that is now sitting 
on over $10 billion. U.S. AID is pouring money 
into U.S.-based NGO’s that pay more for staff 
than they do for projects. Construction companies 
are lining up to bid for earthquake rubble 
removal contracts. Cholera –brought to Haiti by 
UN forces from Nepal – has spread throughout the 
country, with recent reports citing 800,000 
cases. A seemingly permanent foreign MINUSTAH 
occupation patrols the streets, with their blue helmets and pointed guns.

As if to rub salt into the wounds, there is the 
new president, Michel Martelly. A kompa singer 
and long-time proponent of Jean-Claude Duvalier, 
Martelly worked with the dreaded FRAPH death 
squads that killed over 5000 people in Haiti 
after the first coup against Aristide in 1991. He 
has made the reestablishment of Haiti’s hated 
military a priority of his administration. In the 
past, he has called for a ban on "all strikes and 
demonstrations." In a revolting video released 
right before the election, Martelly called 
Lavalas members "faggots" and threatened sexual 
violence against Aristide. Some of his chief 
aides had warned that "the country would burn" if he were not selected.

In the end, Martelly was selected by only 17% of 
eligible Haitian voters. With Fanmi Lavalas 
excluded, and two right-wing candidates running, 
the vast majority of Haitians stayed away, 
refusing to lend credibility to the charade. The 
percentage of voters who turned out was the 
smallest in 60 years for any presidential election in the Americas.

Right after his election, Martelly obediently 
traveled to Washington, where he met with 
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who declared 
that the United States was with him, "all the 
way."  He then made the rounds with officials of 
the World Bank, the Inter-American Development 
Bank, and the chair of the International Monetary 
Fund chair, Dominique Strauss-Kahn (later 
arrested for attempted rape in New York). After 
the discussion with Strauss-Kahn, Martelly beamed 
and announced that, "the meeting had gone well." 
(2) Of course it did. The vultures are hovering over Haiti.

Consider the recent deal brokered by Secretary of 
State Hillary Clinton with South Korean garment 
giant, Sae-A Trading Company, which will soon 
become Haiti’s largest private employer.  Sae-A 
is building a 617-acre "free trade zone" near the 
northern city of Cap-Haitien.  It plans to employ 
20,000 workers and pay them only 2/3 of Haiti’s 
minimum wage.  U.S. AID is contributing $124 
million, the Inter-American Development Bank $100 
million, and Sae-A will put in $78 million. The 
planned industrial park will supply Wal-Mart, 
Target, Kohl’s and other major U.S.-based 
retailers. When confronted with questions over 
the deal – including whether the new factories 
will be sweatshops – Hillary Clinton dismissed 
all concerns, declaring, "Haiti is now open for business."

The Sae-A project is just one part of the 
structural adjustment plan now being consolidated 
in Haiti.  Known as the "death plan" in Haiti, it 
involves privatization, new contracts for elite 
import-export barons, and continued limits on 
social investment – all combined with targeted 
repression of grassroots organizations. In one 
particularly frank analysis, UN economic advisor 
Paul Collier highlighted the new possibilities 
for investment in Haiti:  "Due to its poverty and 
relatively unregulated labor market, Haiti has 
labor costs that are fully competitive with 
China, which is the global benchmark."

Taking note, Coca-Cola has expanded its Haiti 
operations, through its "Hope for Haiti" mango 
drink.  Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, which 
didn’t even have the decency to postpone its 
post-earthquake Haiti tours, has received funding 
from U.S. AID to multiply its tourist operations 
in northern Haiti, training Haitians to be 
"hospitality workers." And energy companies are 
lining up to grab contracts to dig up the country 
in order to exploit Haiti’s vast mineral wealth.

Yet, despite decades of repression, the popular 
movement in Haiti remains active and alive. 
Women’s organizers are right now supporting 
market women through low-interest micro-credit 
programs. Human rights workers continue to demand 
the release of political prisoners and expose the 
horrific conditions within Haiti’s 
prisons.  Progressive radio stations have taken 
great risk to denounce Martelly and the sham 
elections.  The popular church (ti legliz) 
continues its work among peasants throughout the 
countryside.  Young people have flocked to the 
Foundation by the thousands for education and 
training.  And the reopening of the medical school is on the horizon.

All of this demands international solidarity. As 
we take a breath and celebrate Aristide’s 
hard-fought for return, we know that the work 
continues. Hopefully, we are all ready for this next round.
Robert Roth is a co-founder of Haiti Action 
Committee and  a board member of the Haiti 
Emergency Relief Fund.  He was in Haiti for 
President Aristide’s return. A version of this 
article originally appeared in the Summer 2011 
Newsletter of the Ecumenical Peace Institute

<http://www.haitisolidarity.net/>www.haitisolidarity.net and on FACEBOOK

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