[News] Haiti in Crisis: What Next After the Stolen Election? by Robert Roth

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Aug 31 16:04:57 EDT 2017


http://haitisolidarity.net/in-the-news/after-the-stolen-election/ 
<http://haitisolidarity.net/in-the-news/after-the-stolen-election/>

*Haiti in Crisis: *

*What Next After The Stolen Election?
by Robert Roth
*

Addressing an overflow audience in Oakland in late April, Dr. Maryse 
Narcisse, presidential candidate of /Fanmi Lavalas/, the party of former 
president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, spoke about the necessity of reforming 
the justice system, investing in education and health, and the decisive 
role of women in the fight for democracy. Reflecting on the devastation 
wrought by both the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew, she focused 
on the growing threats posed by climate change to the island nation and 
the need for a vigorous environmental campaign to meet that threat. She 
emphasized that the /Lavalas/ movement “places human beings at the center.”

Dr. Narcisse spoke in the wake of the selection of Haiti’s new 
president, Jovenel Moise, a right-wing businessmen and protégé of former 
president Michel Martelly, who took office via an electoral process so 
replete with fraud and voter suppression that opposition forces called 
it an “electoral coup.” She denounced the stolen elections and the 
corrupt electoral commission that validated the outcome.  But she 
reiterated that the deteriorating economic and social conditions in 
Haiti would be the catalyst for renewed protest in the days and months 
ahead. “There is no choice”, she stated, “but for the people to resist. 
And /Lavalas/ will be there to support them.”

We can see the truth of this throughout Haiti. Market women – the very 
heart of Haiti’s economy and the foundation of so many Haitian families’ 
ability to survive – have been targeted by police trying to move them 
off the streets of Port-au-Prince, where they have been selling their 
goods for generations.  When the women organized themselves and refused 
to move, police burned down their stalls.

On July 10 - 12, 2017, during three days of peaceful protest for an 
increase in the minimum wage, Haitian police attacked the workers from 
the industrial park in Port-au-Prince with tear gas, batons and cannons 
shooting a liquid skin irritant. They beat a woman who had recently 
returned to work from giving birth. A few days later, a young book 
vendor was shot to death in Petionville, on the outskirts of 
Port-au-Prince, by a police officer in front of horrified witnesses, who 
tried to prevent the police from quickly removing the body and covering 
up the crime.They were attacked with batons and tear gas.

There has been a 35 cents increase in the price of gasoline – which was 
already higher than what we pay here in the United States. The 
government has also announced plans to reduce government subsidies for 
oil and gas, which will send the price even higher. The rise in the cost 
of transportation combined with a hike in the price of food has made 
already untenable living conditions even worse for the vast majority of 
Haitians.

Former president Michel Martelly came to power in 2011 touting his plan 
to build new schools and make education free for all.  Instead, 
investment in public education has remained stagnant while tuition for 
private schooling has skyrocketed. Teachers have been on strike for 
months, demanding that they be paid after not receiving their salaries 
for up to two years.  This despite the fact the Haitian government adds 
a surcharge to every international phone call and money transfer, 
supposedly to fund education.Students have also protested, both in 
support of their teachers and to denounce the failure of the government 
to invest in their education. They too have been met with violent 
repression, exemplified by a recent incident when the rector of the 
National University of Haiti used his SUV to run over a student 
protester, landing the student in the hospital in critical condition. A 
video captured the gruesome sequence. No charges have been filed in the 
case.

The Haitian government has a solution for the crisis in education – more 
prisons. There are now more than 10,000 Haitians locked up in prison, 
the majority of whom have never been charged or sentenced.  Prisoners 
are frequently beaten, receive no health care, and live in overcrowded 
cells, where epidemics spread rapidly. When United Nations soldiers from 
Nepal introduced cholera to Haiti in 2010, the disease swept through 
Haiti’s prisons, killing hundreds. At the recent opening of a new prison 
in Haiti’s central plateau, the head of Haiti’s national police, 
Michel-Ange Gedeon, boasted about the increase in prison construction, 
saying:  “In every society, whenever schools fail in their mission, 
prisons are built in a cascade to try to right the ship.  If offenders 
are to be neutralized, then prisons are needed to contain them.”  This 
is Haiti’s version of mass incarceration, so well known to Black and 
Brown communities here in the U.S.

Now there are new political prisoners – many of them associated with the 
/Lavalas/ movement – who were arrested during the sustained wave of 
protests over the stolen elections.  As living conditions worsen and 
protests sharpen, the prisons will fill even more.

All of this, added to the impact of Hurricane Matthew (the biggest storm 
to hit Haiti in 50 years) has led more Haitians to flee the country.In 
early July, the Coast Guard intercepted and sent back to Haiti 107 
Haitians in a small, dangerously overcrowded boat south of the Bahamas. 
There are over 4,000 Haitians right now in Tijuana, living in refugee 
camps. Recruited by occupying forces of Brazil to work in the Rio 
Olympics, they were pushed out after the Games ended.Hoping for 
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the United States, which has been 
granted to Haitians since the 2010 earthquake, they instead have been 
deported or placed in detention camps if they cross the border.When 
Haitian president Moise traveled to the United States and met with Vice 
President Mike Pence in June, he refused to meet with Haitians worried 
about the changes in their TPS status, telling them to “calm down.”In 
their joint communiqué, Pence and Moise did not mention the migration 
crisis but did pledge to jointly pursue “an economic reform agenda to 
attract investment and generate growth.Moise’s handshake with Pence 
symbolized just how much of a compliant partner his regime is with the 
U.S. government as it seeks even more control over Haiti’s economy and 
future.

The United Nations Military Occupation Forces (MINUSTAH), which has 
functioned as a colonial overseer since the 2004 coup, is set to scale 
down its operation, but will remain in Haiti under its new acronym 
MINUJUSTH (United Nations Mission For Justice Support). MINUJUSTH will 
consist of 1185 police officers, and will continue to train and support 
the Haitian National Police – the same police who beat, tear-gassed and 
shot pro-democracy protesters during the last electoral cycle.

Lieutenant General Cesar Lopes Loureiro, the head of the Brazilian 
forces that have been in command of MINUSTAH since the beginning of the 
occupation, recently issued a glowing report on the accomplishments of 
MINUSTAH. But he was silent about UN responsibility for the cholera 
outbreak, and failed to mention the numerous cases of rape and other 
sexual assaults by UN soldiers. The UN has still not compensated the 
victims of the cholera epidemic, and it has given impunity to the many 
soldiers charged with raping Haitians during the long occupation.  And 
there was not one word about the killings by UN soldiers of people in 
pro-Lavalas neighborhoods like Cite Soleil and Bel-Air, or in the 
Port-au-Prince prison. Whether the UN calls its operations MINUSTAH or 
MINJUSTH, the continued presence of its forces, even in the guise of a 
reframed mission, is a clear assault on Haiti’s sovereignty.

What now looms on the horizon is the resurrection of the Haitian 
military. This has been a key goal of right-wing Haitian forces since 
President Aristide got rid of the army in 1995. Jovenel Moise has stated 
that he wants the army in place within two years. The beginnings of that 
new army have been in the works for years, training at military bases in 
Ecuador.

In a statement to the Miami Herald, the president of the Haitian Senate, 
Yuri Latortue, who was a central organizer of the 2004 coup, said, “In 
Haiti we are used to having an army.” Referring to the U.S. occupation 
of Haiti from 1915-1934, which created the modern Haitian army, Latortue 
went on to say, “The Americans understood that if we have the police but 
not an army, we will not get anywhere.”

When Haitian activists speak of the Haitian Army, there is a chill in 
the air. Before Aristide disbanded it, 40% of Haiti’s budget went to the 
military. In a country with fewer than two doctors per 10,000 people, 
there was one soldier per 1,000 people. The Army has long been Haiti’s 
central institution of repression; the main organizer of coups against 
elected officials, helping to enforce the Duvalier dictatorships and 
those that followed before the rise of /Lavalas/. It was the Haitian 
Army that overthrew Aristide in 1991 and initiated a reign of terror 
that took over 5000 lives before Aristide returned in 1994.

The goal of the 2004 coup, like the 1991 coup that preceded it, was not 
only to topple the Aristide government, but also to rid the country of 
the powerful grassroots movement that has activated, energized and given 
voice to Haiti’s poor. That goal has not been accomplished. A stolen 
election cannot hide this reality.

Throughout her campaign, Dr. Narcisse, often accompanied by former 
President Aristide, was greeted by tens of thousands of supporters in 
the poorest communities of Haiti. A vibrant /Lavalas/ presence was 
evident across the country. In the face of decades of COINTELPRO-style 
counterinsurgency, including imprisonment, the killing and exile of 
thousands, attempts to buy off activists and encourage internal strife, 
/Lavalas/ once again showed its significant base among Haiti’s majority 
population. In or out of government, this strength will serve as a 
bulwark against the harsh austerity program already being put into place 
by Moise and his U.S. sponsors.

At the end of her speech in Oakland, Dr. Narcisse highlighted the 
grassroots work of the Aristide Foundation for Democracy. In the midst 
of the cholera epidemic, mobile health clinics from the Foundation 
treated patients who had nowhere else to go.  After the devastation 
caused by Hurricane Matthew, President Aristide and /Lavalas/ activists 
went to Les Cayes, Jeremie and other hard-hit areas to provide medical 
support, food and clothing. On Haitian Mother’s Day, hundreds of women 
filled the Foundation to get medical care for themselves and their 
children. Other clinics took place in mid-July, including on President 
Aristide’s birthday on July 15^th . And the University of the Aristide 
Foundation (UNIFA) continues to grow, providing higher education for 
over 1,200 students, most of whom could never afford other universities 
in Haiti.

This is a movement that is not going away. As /Lavalas/ digs in for the 
long haul, those in solidarity with Haiti have to do so as well.

-------------

Haiti Action Committee

www.haitisolidarity.net <http://www.haitisolidarity.net>

@HaitiActionCommittee

@HaitiAction1


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