Haiti: The Roof Is Leaking


Clara James

 

On April 6, Haiti held elections to
fill one-third of the Senate seats and positions on over 500
communal and town councils. The only problem was, most
Haitians did not go to the polls. Only about 5 percent of
those eligible to vote even bothered. Almost before local
commentators could react, Washington blasted forth its
congratulations for the "important step in the
consolidation of democracy." But whatever image the
White House might try to pump out to the mainstream press,
behind the scenes of streets full of colorful jitneys, shiny
new police cars, and little white jeeps sporting blue United
Nations flags, or the tales of the "restoration of
democracy" and million-dollar infrastructure projects,
President Clinton’s "foreign policy victory"
is in a state of disaster.

As the government implements a radical
neoliberal program and a Structural Adjustment Policy (SAP)
under the tutelage of the U.S. embassy and the International
Monetary Fund (IMF), unemployment is 60 to 70 percent, 40
percent of the population is undernourished, drought and
severe hunger plague many regions (people are reportedly
eating roots, clay, and dogs), inflation was 40 percent in
1996 and will be at least 30 percent this year, and the local
currency continues to fall against the U.S. dollar. Desperate
to earn enough to feed their families, people clog the
streets, hawking used clothing or housewares, deodorants and
Crazy Glue, chicken parts, pig ears, and expired medicines.

The country’s infrastructure
remains devastated. Visitors compare it to post-war Beirut or
Somalia. Most Haitians have no access to water or
electricity, 70 percent of schools are private (only 55
percent of children attend primary school, and almost 60
percent of adults are illiterate); the few paved highways
that exist are riddled with holes. For the majority of
Haiti’s seven million people, services are virtually
non-existent.

While the overt repression of the
three-year coup d’état has receded, insecurity, some of
it political, remains high. The new police force appears
powerless against armed gangs, drug lords, and the murders of
more than a dozen of its own ranks. The 2,000 UN soldiers do
not even merit mention. They are much more likely to be
spotted at a patisserie or a discotheque than at a crime
scene. Both forces, however, do show up whenever there are
popular protests. For, while the situation is dismal, the
Haitian people have not given up their decade-long struggle
for justice and democracy. Their belligerent refusal to
swallow the elections is another sign that not only are they
rejecting the U.S.-style "democracy" being imposed
on them, but that the crisis in Haiti is far from over.

 

Origins of the Crisis

The crisis is not new, and it did not
originate with the September 31, 1991 coup d’tat against
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, nor even with his election seven
months earlier. New, perhaps, are the invasions of foreign
products undercutting local peasants’ produce, or the
corruption and co-optation of Lavalas officials, or the
rampant nature of violent crime. But the crisis dates back to
the Duvalier regime and its gradual inability to control the
Haitian people, exasperated with almost 30 years of
oppression and determined to deliver their country from the
grips of the dictator, his cronies, and their international
patrons.

As contradictions developed, thousands
took to the seas, while others organized into the peasant
groups, student associations, women’s and church groups,
neighborhood organizations, and other formations that made up
what is called the popular and democratic movement. As it
picked up force, the regime was unable to control the surging
enthusiasm and cascades of demands. No longer providing the
required stability, Duvalier was jettisoned, flown with his
stolen millions to France.

Provisional military governments, sham
elections, puppet presidents, nothing placated the Haitian
people. Finally another round of elections were set up for
1990. But things did not go as the embassy and its local
partners had planned. Rather than being won by former World
Bank employee Marc L. Bazin (who later served as one of the
coup’s puppets), they were carried away in a landslide
by the priest from the St. Jean Bosco parish who had entered
the race in the last days and asked the people to come out
and vote like a "Lavalas" or "flood."
Over 80 percent of those eligible to vote went to the polls:
Aristide got 67 percent and Bazin 14. But just as in Salvador
Allende’s Chile and Jacobo Arbenz’s Guatemala, it
was not acceptable. Something had to be done. Seven months
later, Aristide was ousted by a coup d’état led by
Haitian army Gen. Raoul Cedras, a long-time agent of the U.S.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and supported by the army
and a major portion of the bourgeoisie.

Over the next three years, the U.S. and
their local acolytes worked to stabilize the situation
through brutal and targeted repression of the democratic and
popular movement in Haiti, while in Washington and New York
U.S. officials engaged in a demagogical line of calling for
the "return of democracy" while supporting a
double-edged, half-baked embargo (from which U.S. factories
were exempt until the last few months), demanding increasing
concessions from the Haitian government and maneuvering to
evict France, Haiti’s number two partner, from its
privileged position in Port-au-Prince politics.

As the months passed, it became evident
the coup had not eliminated Aristide from the political
scene, but that did not stop the forces of reaction from
stretching it out to weaken the popular camp. During the
final year, they unleashed an uncompromising campaign of
terror. CIA agent Emmanuel Constant founded a paramilitary
group, FRAPH (Front pour l’Avancement et le Progrès
Haïtien—its acronym sounds like "frappe,"
which means "punch" in French), which took part in
the escalating number of political assassinations,
kidnappings, torturings and rapes, including the
gangland-style murder of the Minister of Justice Guy Malary,
planned, according to U.S. documents, by CIA agents Constant
and army Gen. Phillipe Biamby.

Still, Haiti remained a problem. Human
rights organizations denounced massive violations, tens of
thousands of refugees took to the seas, and Haitians in the
U.S. demonstrated daily. Clinton had not kept the promises he
had made to Haitian-Americans to get their votes and the
Congressional Black Caucus adopted Haiti as an issue.
Washington was promoting itself as "Defender of
Democracy" in other parts of the world and being
ridiculed for its Haiti policy. All these factors meant a
denouement had to be found, and since the coup did not get
rid of Aristide, he would have to be part of the solution.

In exchange for certain promises and
assurances to the very parties that had planned his overthrow
and supported, or at least tolerated, three years of terror,
he would be allowed to finish out the last 14 months of his
term in Port-au-Prince.

 

Stability and Control

But the landing of 20,000 U.S. soldiers
was still not the answer; it was merely a step in the
transition to the next phase, to set the stage for the U.S.
imperialist objectives: restructure the economy according to
American needs, organize the society along ultra-liberal
lines, and get the Haitian people back under control. That
explains, for example, why rather than disarming what Clinton
had only two days earlier called "the most brutal, the
most violent regime anywhere in our hemisphere," U.S.
soldiers treated the Armed Forces of Haiti with, in U.S.
officers’ own words, "courtesy" and
"respect."

Rather than being disarmed and made to
stand trial, officers were escorted out of the country with
their families and fortunes, and the rank-and-file soldiers
were offered spots in a U.S.-run $12.5 million program aimed
at "reintegrating the former [soldiers] back into
Haitian society" complete with computer training courses
and three meals a day. As for FRAPH, Constant
"slipped" out of Haiti and can be spotted at chic
New York discotheques since, the U.S. says, "it is not
in our best interests to deport him at this time." The
FRAPH members left behind kept their guns and, in some cases,
were even protected by the invading troops, who advised them
to lie low.

The U.S. invasion and ensuing
occupation was never meant to provide the "sure and
stable" atmosphere promised in the UN Security Council
Resolution that sent them to Haiti, and many sectors of
Haitian society have begun to note that there is even a
marked rise in insecurity whenever their mandate is about to
expire, almost as if certain parties wanted to make sure
another extension was approved. But if UN officials are not
very honest about what they are doing, they are clear on what
they will not do. Asked about its role as insecurity was
rising this spring, the mission’s spokesperson said it
was "deeply worried by the growth of violence" but
that it is "the task of the National Police, the
authorities to take the appropriate decisions" because
the UN force is "to bring technical support and is not
supposed to act or take decisions." (The spokesperson
failed to mention the existence of several hundred U.S.
Special Forces soldiers that are also in the country through
an undisclosed agreement with the Haitian government, or what
their role might be.)

The U.S. and UN troops appear to be
forces of last recourse, a threat to any sectors of Haitian
society—from the Duvalierists and drug gangs to the
increasingly discontented population—that might be
tempted to step out of line. In order to "restore
democracy" and impose its "new" world order,
Washington and its local allies—the bourgeoisie, the
professionals staffing the international agencies, and the
traditional politicians—need stability, but the Haitian
army, founded and trained by U.S. marines during the first
U.S. occupation (1917-1934), while it served its purpose
well, had become anachronistic, so while the new Haitian
National Police are being set up and trained, UN forces are
holding the fort, at least as an ultimate deterrent.

It is not surprising, therefore, that
almost before the rotors on the helicopters had come to a
full stop, U.S. agencies were at work on the new force under
a 5-year, $60 million accord with the Aristide government.
The International Criminal Investigations Training Assistance
Program (ICITAP), linked to the U.S. State Department and
Federal Bureau of Investigation and founded in 1986 (the
School of the Americas is on its way out since the Americas
are now supposedly bathed in what George Bush once called
"the winds of democracy") to "fortify the
development of emerging democracies in the western
hemisphere," quickly screened 20,000 candidates and
chose 5,000 for 4-month training cycles (2 of which were in
Missouri), run by ICITAP with some French and Canadian
cooperation. The resulting force, and especially the thuggish
Rapid Intervention Force that shows up at demonstrations in
full riot gear, have been heavily criticized by local and
international rights groups as being under-trained,
trigger-happy, and even abusive and murderous. (Last January,
Human Rights Watch accused the police of 46 unjustified
murders, including 15 summary executions, since its
inauguration.)

 

An American Plan in Paris

The occupation and establishment of the
new police went a long way toward Washington’s
objectives, but they were only the preparations. Before
anyone had heard of Aristide, Washington had been after
something else. In the early 1980s, through the U.S. Agency
for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank, it
ordered the Jean-Claude Duvalier government to institute a
series of liberal structural changes to "modernize"
Haiti and bring it in line with the neoliberal hemispheric
order the U.S. was working to install, to make the Haitian
economy more like a part of the U.S. economy, operating
according to its needs. Haiti’s tariffs would be cut,
and it would become a market for U.S. agricultural surpluses
and a source of inexpensive tropical produce. Agro-industries
with "growth potential" would be pushed, even if
that led to "a decline in income and nutritional status,
especially for small farmers and peasants" (USAID,
1982). Peasants would leave the land and swell the cities,
forming an immense pool of cheap manual labor for U.S.
textile and electronics assembly plants. Haiti was to become
"the Taiwan of the Caribbean." In the meantime, the
state would be streamlined, and the few existing social
programs (what USAID called "misdirected social
objectives") reduced. The resulting economy, USAID
boasted, would have "a sharply growing need to import
grain and other consumer products. The result will be an
historic change toward deeper market interdependence with the
United States" (1982). Sometimes called
"Jean-Claudisme," the Haitian people soon dubbed it
"the American Plan."

Duvalier had begun the changes, but
popular unrest and resistance to the dictator, as well as to
the liberal measures, brought the programs to a halt. The
1990 Aristide government was also, to a certain extent, a
willing partner and had signed with the IMF, but the coup got
in the way. As part of the package to get back to the
National Palace, Aristide was offered a new neoliberal deal
and, after a series of meetings with Americans, Europeans,
and the multilateral banks which culminated in August 1994,
in Paris, his government took it, agreeing to a shopping list
of neoliberal "reforms" and an SAP. In exchange,
the country would supposedly receive over $1 billion in aid
and loans. The list was not new; it was merely an updated
version of the American Plan and it included:

  • Elimination of half the 45,000
    government employees from the public payroll;
  • Privatization of state
    enterprises;
  • Setting the minimum wage low
    enough to have "comparative advantage" over
    neighbors; (The wage stood at about $1.00 per day
    when Aristide returned in 1994. Asked about a
    potential hike, USAID chief Brian Atwood, who had
    accompanied the president for his return trip, said
    "I don’t think that this economy is ready
    to consider such measures.")
  • Reduction of the role of the
    state;
  • Orienting agriculture toward
    export crops instead of local food production, to
    earn hard currency not only to buy the foreign
    (overwhelmingly U.S.) products, but also to pay off
    the foreign debt, slated to rise from $800 million to
    almost $2 billion;
  • Scores of foreign
    "experts" working inside the ministries; (A
    recent study by the Washington-based Development
    Group for Alternative Policies said the IMF and World
    Bank alone are slated to fund over 532
    "person-months" over the next three years.)

This package the people dubbed the
"Paris Plan."

 

Justice and Democracy

Perhaps the most insistent demand of
the Haitian people since the ouster of Duvalier in 1986 has
been for justice: justice for the many thousands tortured and
killed by Papa Doc and Baby Doc, justice for the thousands
more who fell in targeted repression during the 1986-1991
struggles for democracy, and finally, for the 3,000 murdered
and thousands of other victims of rape, torture, robbery,
pillaging, and beatings during the 3-year coup regime.

Unable to get around the people’s
irrepressible demand, the U.S. came up with a solution:
couple justice with reconciliation through a sweeping amnesty
decree. Early in the negotiations with the Americans,
Aristide was asked to sign a broad amnesty for
"political crimes" committed between September 29,
1991 and the date of his return. The reasoning: paralyze the
justice system to cover not only local army officers,
politicians, and members of the bourgeoisie, but also the
U.S. government and its agencies and agents, and begin to set
the limits and lay the foundations of the
"modernized" justice system the U.S. desired.
Aristide’s return was not possible until this stone was
in place. The president acquiesced in the fall of 1993, and
parliamentarians followed in the spring. On his return,
Aristide dutifully played his part, harping on reconciliation
and pleading with people not to take to the streets or seek
vengeance. For even if the formal judicial guarantees were in
place, in the past the Haitian people had not been averse to
employing popular justice, as witnessed during the post-1986
period of "dechoukaj" or "uprooting"
where, all over the country, the population attempted to
destroy the rotten roots of the Duvalier regime by sacking
homes and killing Tonton Macoutes and other oppressors.

Finally, just to make sure that the
"new" Haitian justice system, full of corrupt and
anachronistic judges who always accommodated whatever regime
was in the palace, was "modernized" along liberal
lines, the U.S. (through an agreement with the Aristide
government and with the cooperative accommodation of his and
all the later Lavalas ministers of justice) is running an $18
million, 5-year program. It has "recycled" over 200
judges, and Washington law firms have flown in to give
seminars and set up their consultants in court houses
throughout the country. USAID also boasts it is paying for
legal assistance for the petty thieves in prison but, not
surprisingly, has not mentioned any similar assistance for
coup victims. In addition to the obvious issues of
sovereignty, Haitian law is based on Napoleonic Code and not
Anglo-Saxon Common Law. But that does not seem to concern
either government.

Finally, Washington wants to insure the
successful graft of a U.S.-style democracy, responsive to a
liberal economic climate. USAID and other agencies had been
working for that since 1986, cultivating political parties
and groupings ("moderate Duvalierist factions"
according to USAID), like the coalition that backed Bazin in
1990 and even trying to corrupt "responsible elements
within the popular movement." A July 1996 USAID report
says the U.S. funding has as its "strategic objective…
strengthening political institutions and allowing the Haitian
people to determine their own destiny." The key, of
course, is to insure Haitians identify their
"destiny" with U.S. "strategic
objectives." To achieve that, the U.S. is spending
heavily. It put over $16 million into the legislative and
presidential races of 1995, and in only one year, launched
and funded over 1,900 projects in almost all of Haiti’s
133 communes through its $7.5 million Local Governance
project. Through yet another agreement with the Aristide
team, it is spending over $17 million through its Democracy
Enhancement Program to "reinforce civil society"
organizations and "support" parliament. (As the
Paris Plan notes, "the bulk of economic reforms must be
enacted through laws; yet parliament is not equipped to deal
effectively with these complex issues.") Millions of
dollars are slated for the 564 communal councils, made up of
peasants and average citizens, to "increase citizen
participation in the democratic process" through
"technical assistance." U.S. taxpayer dollars also
support private sector organizations, pay attorneys to draft
new laws, and fund unions so they "represent the
interests of the working class." USAID will bankroll
local associations, infrastructure and development projects,
seminars, etc. A 1995 report by Voices for Haiti, a
Washington-based coalition of non-governmental organizations
and solidarity groups, said "Haiti is one of the highest
per capita USAID recipients in the world. USAID resources for
Haiti have totaled over $1.2 billion since 1980." And
that is only the money that can be tracked.

 

Lavalas & The American
Plan

On the essentials then, Aristide
capitulated. His government went along with the American Plan
and all its corollaries. As promised in Paris, it immediately
began the neoliberal "reforms," setting up the
orthodox "Presidential Commission on Economic Growth and
Modernization" which is, among other things, writing a
law (with USAID support) to open Free Trade Zones around the
country. The new "Tripartite Commission on Consultation
and Arbitration" soon recommended a post-coup minimum
wage of 29 gourdes (in 1994, about $2.07). The Aristide
government had hinted it would like 45 gourdes ($3.20), but
agreed to a compromise of 36 gourdes ($2.57 at the time,
today slightly over $2.00, lower than the minimum wage of the
1980s) because, the president explained, "I have to
listen to different groups. I don’t want there to be
division in the Lavalas family."

The justice situation remained under
control. The Aristide government did not prosecute a single
criminal of the coup era. Instead, it hid behind dilatory
moves like calling on citizens to report coup abuses to
Complaint Offices which opened for a few months and then were
never heard from again. It did not punish or even ostracize
the bourgeois supporters of the coup, and some even got fat
contracts.

The government also implemented radical
tariff cuts, slashing them in half or more. Many were cut to
zero. Only 18 months later, the predictable effects are being
felt, especially by the 60 percent of the population that
still makes a living in the countryside. Coming on top of
decades of neglect of the agricultural sector, liberalization
is ringing a death knell. Whereas the country was nearly
self-sufficient in food in 1970, importing only 10 percent of
its needs, by 1981 that figure had risen to 23 percent, and
by 1993, 42 percent. The new tariffs mean that local staples
like corn and beans have to compete with U.S. subsidized
products. Peasants who cannot make ends meet resort to
cutting down fruit trees to make charcoal or migrating to the
burgeoning slums around the capital and other cities.

Rice offers a brutal illustration: ten
years ago, Haiti produced almost all the rice it needed. But
as tariffs have been progressively cut (the first reduction
was part of "Jean-Claudisme"), "Miami
rice," which consistently undersells local rice, has
flooded the market. In 1985, Haiti imported 7,337 tons of
U.S. rice. In 1990, Haiti bought over 100,000 tons. By 1995,
the figure was 197,713 tons, over half of the country’s
consumption. Haiti is now the largest consumer of U.S. rice
in the Caribbean, and the seventh largest in the world. (Most
of it comes through a U.S. multinational, Erly Corporation,
which lost its lucrative Iraq market as a result of Operation
Desert Storm. In 1992, conveniently, it signed an illegal
contract with Bazin and the de facto regime.)

Aristide attempted to maintain his
popularity through the millions of dollars worth of
"Little Projects of the Presidency," a series of
community projects that generated a number of accusations of
corruption. He also set up the Commission of Truth and
Justice, but in the context of the amnesty, the demagogy of
the proposition is inescapable. The commission’s
findings were specifically "not of a judicial
nature," Aristide’s decree said, and were to merely
"recommend just measures of reparation and
rehabilitation." Not surprisingly, the U.S. saw even
this weak effort as a threat and boycotted the commission,
doing everything possible to undermine it. Inquiries moved
forward anyway and the final report, a 2,000-page document,
was handed to the president on his last day in office
(February 6, 1996). But 14 months later, it has never been
published by the government, and the version of the report
provided to human rights organizations, while clearly
identifying every victim who took the risk to come forward,
protects the identities of all the torturers they named.
Finally, no reparations to victims have ever been paid, and
the commission’s recommendations have never been
implemented.

To prepare the terrain for the touchy
issue of privatization, Aristide, who like many other members
of the Lavalas sector had been part of the anti-IMF movement
in the 1980s (he used to preach that capitalism was "a
mortal sin"), tentatively promoted
"democratization" of state assets. But faced with
growing popular opposition to the sale of the state
companies, some of which, like the telephone company, were
known to be quite lucrative, Aristide backed off and began a
series of maneuvers to keep his political credit intact, and
even if he never outright rejected privatization, he earned
his tutors’ consternation. The U.S. blocked a $4.6
million grant, and Aristide’s businessperson-prime
minister, hand-picked by Washington, resigned. During an
October 1995 visit, Vice President Al Gore warned Aristide he
had made promises "in Paris" and should keep them
"to insure the continued flow of these funds." But
the president, with only 100 days left in office, chose
instead to make a few last bids to regain the political
terrain he had lost as a result of the Paris Plan and unkept
promises. In a November 1995 speech after the assassination
of a parliamentarian, he resurrected some of his old
vocabulary and harangued an audience of diplomats for failing
to implement a disarmament program. (Predictably, they and
the American mainstream press were "shocked" by his
language.)

"We recognize our friends, those
who helped us restore democracy to Haiti. It is certainly a
success, but blood flows, arms continue to traverse the
success!" he said. "This question of sitting and
waiting for the foreigners to give us security, forget
it!"

In his last 24 hours in the palace,
Aristide, apparently without the tutors’ approval,
announced that Haiti was restoring diplomatic relations with
Cuba after a 34-year rupture, and that he had abolished the
army by presidential decree.

René Garcia Préval, the new
president, backed by a coalition of Lavalas parties headed by
the strongest one, the Lavalas Political Organization (OPL),
proved to be much less ambiguous in his implementation of
American dictates. The local neoliberal czar, Central Bank
director Lesly Delatour, who got his start neoliberalizing
with renowned tariff slashing after Duvalier was evited in
the 1980s, was kept on from the Aristide team, and with
"Chicago School" zeal, Préval adopted all the
liberal catchwords and hit the roads like a traveling
salesperson, hawking adjustment and the market as
Haiti’s salvation.

The Préval government tackled two
touchy issues: employee layoffs and privatization. Once
again, parliamentary approval was needed. For five months, in
public as well as behind closed doors, Préval officials ran
a lobbying effort which included promising newly elected
mayors they would get 35 percent of the "profits"
from the sales and for parliamentarians, it is said, other
unspecified benefits. But even then, the votes came only
after a whirlwind visit from IMF Director Michel Camdessus,
who pleaded that Haiti had only "a moment of grace"
where it could get hundreds of millions in "aid"
and loans, and who stressed the "complete identity of
view…on what should be done in Haiti" between the IMF
and the Préval team. A few weeks later, in spite of their
hours of pompous declarations, both houses of Lavalas
lawmakers passed the laws, four months behind schedule but
just in time for the IMF stamp of approval.

 

Trouble in the Kitchen

The laws went through, but these days
Lavalas is starting to show signs of wear and tear. Two and a
half years after the "return of democracy," the
Haitian people are out of patience and have begun to take to
the streets to protest rising prices, high taxes, the lack of
services, empty promises, invasion of foreign products, and
the greed and corruption of politicians, whom the population
has dubbed the "gran manj" or "big
eaters." All over the country, organized mobilizations
and spontaneous demonstrations have erupted. People have
blocked highways, protested in front of ministries, and gone
to radio and television stations. On January 16, the country
virtually shut down, heeding a call to strike against the
government and "the high cost of living."

As the contradictions between the
Lavalas sector and the people have exacerbated, the ruling
coalition has crumbled, with different parties blaming one
another and revising their assessment of the neoliberal
policies. Aristide dealt the coalition a major blow when he
broke with OPL and launched the Lavalas Family Party last
November. They have been undermining former allies right and
left by implying corruption is an OPL and not an Aristide
phenomenon, and by hinting that the ex-president was never
really in favor of the neoliberal reforms. In the meantime,
the Préval government, elected in a race where only 29
percent of the population voted, has gone from having a weak
popularity and questionable legitimacy to being in a state of
crisis. The prime minister and cabinet were nearly discharged
by parliament in March, and only the slight OPL majority
(over the other Lavalas parties and independents) saved them
from a vote of "no-confidence."

With falling popularity, rising
protests, and now the election fiasco, Lavalas is in trouble.
To attempt to resuscitate itself, the Préval team has begun
asking the IMF for "accompaniment programs" to the
SAP and is laying the blame on parliament, which has been
slow, or has even refused, to vote on some of the loan
accords.

The White House continues its official
embrace of Préval, but is showing definite signs of
nervousness. With a Republican Congress, Clinton needs to
maintain an airtight "foreign policy victory."
Thus, every time the going gets rocky in Haiti, the White
House dispatches a secretary of state or two, or holds back
some money. If Washington ever decides Lavalas alone cannot
provide the guarantees it needs, it always has its old
friends, "the opposition" and the less savory of
its lackeys who can be called on to fill a right-wing cabinet
or put Lavalas or a mobilizing population in check. In this
respect, the continued high level of insecurity is, at least
in part, suspect. Not only do thousands of armed FRAPH
members remain in circulation, but the U.S. has also taken to
dumping Haitian-American petty criminals into the country,
often with little notification. These serve as another means
to pressure Préval, as well as those engaged in popular
organizing. The only risk for Washington is that the crime
and violence do not run out of control and jeopardize the
overall plan. That possibility, in part, explains the
continued presence of not only the Special Forces teams, but
also the UN troops, whose mandate is expiring again on July
31, but whose continuation already appears assured, at least
until November, by Washington’s favorite junior partner,
Canada. The other part of the explanation is that, until the
neoliberal structures are firmly in place and the people more
docile in their acceptation of the rules of the game, one way
or another, at least as long as the Democrats are in the
White House, there will probably be some kind of an on-ground
insurance policy.

 

The Democratic and Popular
Movement

For, if the Lavalas parties might be
squabbling with one another over specifics of the Paris
document or the American Plan or the "accompaniment
programs," one thing is increasingly clear: none of them
puts into question U.S. hegemony and the overall American
Plan. That is what is driving an inexorable wedge between the
Lavalas politicians and the democratic and popular movement,
a movement born in the struggle against dictatorship, U.S.
maneuvers, and neoliberal policies in the 1980s, which
carried Aristide into office in 1990 and which resisted the
repression and oppression of the three-year de facto regime.

Today, across the country, these
organizations are working to remobilize the population in the
struggle against the government’s neoliberal policies,
against the occupation, and to demand real justice and a
truly participatory democracy. A platform called the
Collective Mobilization against the IMF and Neoliberalism has
published a lengthy alternative economic plan, detailing
agricultural, tax, and industrial policies, while other
organizations have made specific short-term propositions.
Universally, the organizations oppose privatization of state
enterprises, the "opening of the country’s
stomach" with radical liberalization, and the
slave-level factory wages.

Although they have a long way to go to
repair damage inflicted by FRAPH, the Haitian army, the
demobilizing and demagogic promises of politicians, and the
effects of thousands of dollars available for
"projects" through hundreds of
"non-governmental" organizations working all over
the country (some of them less than benevolent), they are on
their way. Last spring and summer the anti-privatization
movement did not succeed in preventing the parliamentary
approval, but it did raise the issue on a national level. A
3-day June workshop on "Neoliberalism and Human
Rights" which gathered representatives of over 30
popular, peasant, and human rights organizations issued a
final declaration rejecting the Lavalas government’s
imposition of the "death plan that big imperialist
countries have decided and want to jam down the throats of
all little countries on the earth" and called for
organized struggle against it. In the assembly factories,
workers are tentatively organizing unions and, with the
solidarity and support of unions and organizations in the
U.S., are denouncing the exploitative wages paid by Haitian
and U.S. factory owners, especially at the sweatshops who sew
for the Walt Disney Company.

Associations of teachers, students,
health workers, and agronomists also play their parts, while
human rights organizations continue to denounce the
neoliberal policies, the lack of justice, and now, the
imposition of elections. As the Platform of Haitian Human
Rights Organizations, a group of nine institutions, said in a
statement after the April 6 elections: "The general
apathy observed in these elections cannot only be due to the
climate of economic morosity. The people and the citizens
fundamentally have the feeling or are conscious of being
abandoned and betrayed by their elected government and more
generally by the different branches of the Lavalas political
sector… [which] are not capable, on the one hand, of
abandoning the logic of submission to the U.S. and the
interests of the Haitian oligarchy [and], on the other, of
accounting to the nation for the numerous acts of illicit
enrichment and dilapidation of public funds for which they
are responsible…."

 

Quick Learners

Only 7 years ago, in 1990, over 80
percent of the voting population went to the polls. Five
years later, 29 percent cast ballots. This year, it looks
like about 5 percent showed up. By refusing to vote in April,
the organizations of the democratic movement, and the Haitian
people in general, were not only showing they have lost faith
in the Lavalas politicians and political parties; they were
rejecting the entire package: a liberal economy, a society
organized along ultra-liberal lines, and what Haitians call
"demokrasi" or "hand-me-down democracy"
slapped on top, where the exercise of a periodic vote
constitutes the outer limit of popular participation. By
ignoring Aristide’s call to vote, it also appears that
people may be overcoming the idea of a providential man that
will single-handedly change the situation in Haiti.

There is a Haitian proverb: "A
leaky house may fool the sun, but it can’t fool the
rain." Only seven years after Haiti’s
"democratic transition" began, the Haitian people
saw through the "hand-me-down democracy."

For the Haitian people and the
organizations of the democratic and popular movement, the
struggle continues. As a leader of a peasant group said, to
explain why he was ignoring the elections last month:
"The only thing we could say to the people, to
organizations, is to mobilize, because we know that liberty
is not given to you; change is not just handed to you; you
have to fight to get real change."