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IW 06

Latin America

Haiti, after the insurrection

Haití

The popular rebellion unleashed in Haiti, in repudiation of the electoral fraud, not only made the UN nervous, but also the winning candidate himself. “In his first encounter with the press, on February 22, the new chief of State confessed that he is afraid (!) at seeing the passion excited by the presidential campaign, the election of a president and the hopes that the population has placed in this president” (Alter Presse, 25 February). In synchronization with this, Preval has sidestepped any fixed commitment regarding the demands of the people, but, on the other hand, has been very explicit in the signal he is sending out regarding the factors of power.

Haití

A crucial point refers to the military occupation. Preval “believes that the UN forces of occupation should stay as long as necessary,” something which enters into a collision course with the recent demands of Lavalas (the party of Aristide, which is the biggest political organization in the country, supported by the organized armed groups in the neighborhoods which were the protagonists of the popular uprising). Actually, Preval broke with Aristide a long time ago, and has formed his own party, L’Espwa (Hope). This explains his “prudence” regarding an eventual return of Aristide (Alter Presse, March 5).

The overwhelming triumph of Preval is the deepest demonstration of the failure of the occupation. With the presence of the “Peace Forces”, repression, hunger, the assassinations and infantile prostitution (the new Haitian slavery) have grown geometrically. The Lavalas party became the main target of a campaign that aims to decimate it. The plan advanced thanks to rigged elections. The military occupation will continue because of the “will of the legitimately constituted authorities”.

This purpose had to be restated in the light of the new scenario. Preval aims to exploit the danger that a premature retiring of the troops will bring with it a situation in which the country will be at the mercy of right-wing armed groups. In the days leading up to Aristide’s falling, those cliques took possession of the country. Haiti has no army, nor armed forces, and the police is an organism without the ability to impose authority; in many cases they act in complicity with bands having paramiitary characteristics. The presence of the troops, this time as a result of Preval’s request, seeks to be shown as the lesser evil.

In this situation, the posing of a political-military alternative takes on unusual importance. The task of organizing a citizen's militia, to be carried out by the organizations representing the workers and the people, the organizations of the people's struggle, and those defending human rights, is the order of the day. This worker and peoples armed forces will put an end to the military occupation.

The continuity of foreign troops, it is important to remark, is at the service of securing a flow of capitalist investments which, in spite of being incipient, started some time ago, from the period of Aristide's. Coinciding with the military occupation, the Provisional Cooperation (CCI, in French) was set up, sponsored, among others, by the World Bank.

“The Haitian population opposed, in particular, the program of privatization of flour and cement factories, telephone and electrical companies, and the ports” (Puerto Rico Independent Media Center, “Haiti elections” 15 Feb). Aristide was adapting himself to these capital aspirations, although, due to popular pressure, he did not go all the way with these tendencies. Under his last government, he opened up free zones, which, while signifying enormous benefits and tax exemptions for capital, are also a fertile ground for the over-exploitation of workers. This began to attract investors, especially in the textile sector, coming from the neighboring Dominican Republic. This free zone complements the inhuman exploitation now occurring with Haitian manpower inside Dominican borders, making illegal use of illegal immigration. One of the most recent facts related to this is the death of 24 workers that perished asphyxiated when clandestinely entering the Dominican Republic.

Preval’s first trip was, precisely, to the neighboring country, where he said he would respect the established agreements, which was received with approval by the authorities and local capitalists. In spite of which the operation to condition Preval failed and there was no more remedy than to accept his triumph in the first round, the president-elect said he is well-disposed towards political compromise. It remains to be seen whether or not this is a prelude to a future coalition government. The “coalition government” is a rabbit pulled from Lula’s top hat. Lula and his chancellor Celso Amorim consulted Kirchner and the Argentine Chancellery on their proposal. Between all of them, they got Condoleeza Rice to accept it reluctantly, in face of the danger of the military Haitian mission beginning to disintegrate, as occurred in Iraq.

What becomes clear is that the agenda of the Haitian exploited does not coincide with that of Preval. Organizations supporting the government — Popular Democratic Movement (Modep), the country organization Tet Kole and the youth association Sildarite Art Jen (SAJ) —“are opposed to foreign occupation that aims to maintain the country under the yoke of the big powers”; They demand “the breaking of ties with the Framework of Provisional Cooperation”, that has been, as we pointed out, a vehicle for the carrying out of neo-liberal plans, and are also demanding a true agrarian reform, “as well as profound reforms on the levels of sanitation and health, the courts, and the police”. (Alter Presse, 25 February). All these questions — they say —“must be resolved autonomously”. Preval began to open the umbrella and passed “the message that being the President of the Republic does not allow him to open every door, and that the actions to be undertaken will be conditioned” (idem).

In the face of this new politic stage that is opening, Haitian workers have to raise their own agenda as their banner, and promote it with their own methods. The struggle for the withdrawal of the troops and their replacement by a citizens' militia, is closely connected to the struggle to put an end to labor flexibility, and in favor of a wage according to the cost of living; (we workers are also entitled to our own slice out of the laws of promotion, the free zones and the proposed economic recovery); for the confiscation of the land-owners and the granting of land and accessible credit to the peasants disposed to working on it; for the starting up of public works under control of the workers themselves, directed at providing education, sanitary centers, water, light and power, and essential services for a punished Haiti, which 80 per cent of the population submerged below the poverty line, are lacking. This agenda presupposes a united struggle with the workers of the sister Dominican Republic.

The internationally unified action of the exploited on both sides of the island is fundamental for the opening up of new horizons and for the overcoming of the insurmountable limits — which at this early stage are already placed in evidence — of this new attempt led by the progressive center-left of the Caribbean.

by Pablo Heller