Volume , Number 0
There are no articles.Commentary
There are no articles.Culture
There are no articles.Features
Criminalizing the Charitable
Jenna e. Ziman
I Dreamed I Was In â€¦
Welfare Rights Activism
John potash and laurel Carpenter
Rural Prison as Colonial Master
New Party Report: Making Work â€¦
Human Rights Watch World Report â€¦
Haiti: The Roof Is Leaking
Word Tricks & Propaganda
Liggett Narcs Joe Camel
Cleaning up the Hamptons
Mobuto Was Chaos
There are no articles.
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Haiti: The Roof Is Leaking
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 Clintons "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 countrys 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 Haitis seven million people, services are virtually non-existent.
While the overt repression of the three-year coup détat 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 dtat 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, womens 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 coups 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 Allendes Chile and Jacobo Arbenzs Guatemala, it was not acceptable. Something had to be done. Seven months later, Aristide was ousted by a coup détat 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, Haitis 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 lAvancement et le Progrès Haïtienits 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 missions 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 societyfrom the Duvalierists and drug gangs to the increasingly discontented populationthat might be tempted to step out of line. In order to "restore democracy" and impose its "new" world order, Washington and its local alliesthe bourgeoisie, the professionals staffing the international agencies, and the traditional politiciansneed 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 Washingtons 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. Haitis 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 dont 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 peoples 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. Aristides 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 Haitis 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 dont 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 countrys 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 commissions findings were specifically "not of a judicial nature," Aristides 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 commissions 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 Aristides 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 Haitis 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 Washingtons 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 governments 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 countrys 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 governments 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...."
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 Aristides 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 cant fool the rain." Only seven years after Haitis "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."