Haiti: Restoring Democracy Imperialist Style
By Shannon Bundock
“Canada is closely following ongoing preparations for the elections to ensure that they take place in a fair and transparent way,” said Mr. Coderre. “After the elections, Canada will continue to accompany the Haitian people in the development and reform of their governmental institutions, particularly in the sectors of security and justice.”
- Canada’s Foreign Affairs Ministry Press Release September 7th 2005
Rewind to February 29th 2004. As the Canadian Military’s Joint Task Force 2 secured a Haitian airstrip, elected Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide was forced onto a US jet and flown out of the country. On February 29th, with the aid of government of Canada, the US and France a coup was performed in Haiti. Military forces moved in and set up the most recent round of invasion and occupation of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
On March 12th 2004 Gerard Latortue was summoned from his residence in the US and installed as the Prime Minister of the new “transitional” government of Haiti. The coup was sealed and a new chapter of imperialist assault opened in Haiti.
What are the foundations of this attack on the sovereignty of Haiti? Why can Canada, the US and France under the UN-led occupation not bring “democracy” to Haiti? In order to fully answer these questions we must explore what was behind the 2004 coup and what the impact of 19 months of occupation have been.
War, Occupation and Destruction from the Middle East to the Caribbean
As the pressure of economic decline bears down on the most powerful imperialist countries in the world, an aggressive and criminal strategy has emerged amongst these countries. The strategy has been developed to deal with rising unemployment, overproduction and the symptoms of a failing capitalist economy. For imperialist countries all over the world, the past four years have meant a hard shift to the right in military and foreign policy. The character of this shift has shown itself in increased war, occupation and plunder of oppressed third-world countries.
Following September 11th 2001 a US-led coalition of forces invaded Afghanistan. March 2003 brought the invasion, war and occupation of Iraq. The past four years have seen an increase in brutality by Israel with aggressive moves to steal more Palestinian land. In 2004 the era of war and occupation reached its bloody hands over to the Caribbean and descended upon Haiti.
Haiti has been a country in turmoil ever since colonialism reached its shores. Haiti has been devastated on all levels through colonial wars, genocide against the indigenous population, slavery and continued imperialist attack. In recent years, Haiti has suffered from US imposed sanctions in 2001, the freezing of humanitarian projects and insurmountable unrelieved debt. Despite improvements from the preceding Duvalier regimes, by the time Aristide was overthrown in 2004, Haiti had reached a critical point. Rightist gangs were running rampant, poverty was still widespread, and the country was in turmoil. The fact that this critical situation was created by decades of imperialist intervention, propping up of rightist factions and economic attack was suppressed by those responsible and Haitians were blamed for their so-called “failed state”.
The stated objectives of the occupying force, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), are to “bring stability to the region”, having determined that Haiti “continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security.” For the UN, along with Canada, the US, France and global imperialism, direct military intervention for the purpose of “stability” means “stability” in the favor of imperialism. One look to Haiti today and it is obvious that the MINUSTAH mission has in no way brought “stability” for Haitian people.
1 Successful Coup Plus 19 Months of Occupation = Death, Destruction, and Brutality
“A U.S.-backed effort to reform and disarm anti-government gangs went horribly wrong 10 days ago when hooded police and machete-wielding civilian backers attacked participants at a soccer game, killing at least six persons. …Witnesses to the Aug. 20 massacre said about 6,000 spectators were packed into the soccer stadium when police officers ordered everyone to the ground. Shots rang out, and people ran for the walled field's only exit. Police fired wantonly into the crowd, witnesses and relatives of victims said. Outside, they said, civilians armed with machetes and more police officers attacked people trying to flee the chaos.”
“Massacre Erupts at USAID Game” - August 30th 2005, Washington Times
Today Haiti is under UN-led occupation. Bullets plow the fields in Haiti and with each day, death grows. Conditions are deteriorating far beyond the crisis in February 2004. Like many of the massacres that have occurred in Haiti over the past 19 months, the Haitian National Police Force (HNP) had primary responsibility for the August 20th murders. Less reported however, is the fact that the UN stood by outside that soccer field, as they stood by many times before, without making a single move to prevent the bloodshed. The HNP works closely with the occupation forces is trained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and other international police forces, and does the occupiers’ dirty work. This in most cases allows the foreign militaries to deny that there is any Haitian blood on their hands.
The job of suppressing the Haitian people is a large one, and besides supporting the HNP, the UN forces also bear direct responsibility for many brutal military operations against Haitian civilians. Reports state that over 10,000 Haitian people have been killed since the occupation began. July 6th 2005 brought with it a raid on the shantytown of Cite Soleil by 350 UN troops. Despite claims of targeting “armed bandits”, reports including one from Haiti Information Project stated that the raid attacked civilians. “Lying in blood on the floor of the modest home were Mr. Romelus's wife, 22 year-old Sonia Romelus who was killed by the same bullet that passed through the body of her 1 year-old infant son Nelson. She was apparently holding the child as the UN opened fire. Next to them was her fou- year-old son Stanley Romelus who was killed by a single shot to the head.”
Adding to the violence and instability facing the Haitian people the new “transitional government” has repealed the former government’s increase in minimum wage and abolished the Ministry of Literacy. Beyond this, Haitian people face widespread unemployment, which is growing from the pre-occupation 2002 statistic that over two-thirds of the population was without formal jobs.
The reality in Haiti is that none of the problems the country has faced in the last two hundred years have been solved by foreign intervention. Despite the wild claims of the UN, the US, Canada, France and other occupying nations about bringing “peace”, “freedom” and “democracy” to Haiti, none of these advancements have materialized. The reaction of Haitian people, despite all the pressure and assault they face, has been a fierce determination in their fight to kick the occupiers out and determine their own fate.
The Next Maneuver to Gain Legitimacy: Elections in Haiti
"Democracy is a fundamental right and Canada is committed to promoting democratic values in Haiti," [International Cooperation] Minister Carroll said. "The international committee will bring credibility to the democratic process during the upcoming elections in Haiti, which will be a turning point in the country's history."
– News Release June 16th 2005 from CIDA, announcing that Elections Canada will be leading the International Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections.
Now we can come back to September 7th 2005. Remember that on September 7th, Denis Coderre stated Canada’s commitment to ensuring “fair and transparent” elections. After weighing the evidence, looking at the reality of Haiti today and the impact of Canada’s role, it is absurd that one could believe what Ministers Coderre and Carroll are claiming. But perhaps we put all evidence aside and give them the benefit of the doubt.
Now without questioning Canada’s intentions, let’s examine the troubles with the “elections” process thus far and see just how smoothly it is sailing along.
FIRST: On June 14th 2005, Canada’s Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew stated, “…preparations for the elections are nearly two months behind schedule…”
SECOND: In May 2005, only 14 registration offices were set up. By July the Provisional Electoral Council announced that 213 were set up and the goal of 424 would be reached soon. Admittedly bumpy, but it generally sounds good, right? Well, contrast that with the fact that in the 2000 elections there were upwards of 2,000 registration centers.
THIRD: According to a July 7th article on the coming elections in Black Commentator, “Observing this logistical nightmare, the National Council of Electoral Observers expressed grave doubts about the feasibility of registering Haitian voters: "It would take 6 months to register 4 million voters in the 436 registration offices projected across the country – that is assuming that the offices were functional today, open 7 days a week, 10 hours a day and staffed by competent technicians."
FOURTH: There are no registration centers in the poor neighborhoods, and no plans to open any.
FIFTH: There is no way to verify the stats being announced by the Provisional Electoral Council of the number of voters registered this far.
SIXTH: The party that was in power in Haiti prior to the coup, Fanmi Lavalas, has many members in exile – including President Aristide, Prime Minister Yvonne Neptune has been imprisoned for over a year without charges, and hundreds of members have been persecuted, jailed, or killed by the HNP and occupation forces.
So, with all of this, Canada is stating that things are running well - a veritable picture of democracy! On September 4th 2005, the Provisional Electoral Council announced that the first and second rounds of the legislative and presidential elections are now scheduled for November 20th 2005 and January 3rd 2006, while municipal elections in Haiti are scheduled for December 11th 2005.
But again, we can ignore these facts. We can ignore the completely inadequate registration process, the corruption and the failures, and with doing that, we can find a yet bigger hole in this entire election sham.
The most basic and fundamental problem with the Haitian elections is one simple, blatant and impossible to ignore thing: Occupation. The Haitian streets are lined with foreign troops, Haiti’s “transitional” government is run by foreign governments, the election process is controlled by foreign countries and the Haitian people have no say. Conclusion: these elections have no legitimacy.
Venezuela and Haiti: Comparing the Results of a Successful Coup vs. a Failed Coup
On April 12th 2002 Venezuela’s President, Huge Chavez, was removed from office in a coup. Like in Haiti, it was announced that he had “resigned” and a new government was quickly installed. The US immediately recognized the “new government” and the “new president”, businessman Pedro Carmona. It has also since been revealed that the US administration played an important role in assisting the coup-plotters in their detailed planning and in determining the probability of success. Unlike in Haiti however, after a combination of massive protest by the Venezuelan people and intervention by the Presidential Guard, within 48 hours the coup was overturned and Chavez was restored to presidency.
In Haiti we have seen the results of a successful imperialist backed coup: death, destruction, instability and chaos. In Venezuela we can see the results of a failed imperialist backed coup. Since April 2002, Venezuela has continued to fight against foreign intervention and has continued to make advancements in the favor of the poor majority in Venezuela. To name a few of these gains: universal health care, dropping infant mortality by 25% in four years, founding special pharmacies which sell drugs to the poor 30% to 50% cheaper than market price, creating hundreds of local clinics in poor and working class areas, 3,000 new schools with two million more children in the education system, free food in schools, creating more than 500,000 jobs, building more than 200,000 new units of social and public housing, a massive literacy campaign that reduced illiteracy substantially and still is continuing, forming and creating new mass organizations including unions such as the National Union of Workers (UNT), and setting up more than 130,000 grassroots-community groups called Bolivarian Circles to educate and politicize poor communities with the goal of raising the level of consciousness of poor farmers and working people. More importantly President Chavez has turned Venezuela from a country of despotic dictators and coup-plotters to a country of masses in motion through education, organization and mobilization. Chavez successfully and skillfully has used the mass mobilization as a tool for social and political advancement, not by decree from above by an elite ‘progressive’ government but with the deep social change from the below using both mass education and mass mobilization.
While the world for Venezuelans was becoming brighter, a dark cloud, which had always been looming within sight, came to the center of the sky. In the midst of progress, the coup threatened to send Venezuela back to page one, however, it failed. It was because of the advancements that the coup against Venezuela failed. Venezuelan people were mobilized, activated and not willing to give up the path they were traveling on for final liberation and revolutionary social transformation.
The successful coup and occupation in Haiti has completely smashed the possibility of anything like the Venezuelan process from happening. The only light at the end of the tunnel for the Haitian people and the only possibility that progress could happen in Haiti, is the successful defeat of the occupation forces, who have only brought with them suppression. The Haitian people know this and have shown the world 19 months of fighting for freedom and fighting for the possibility to build a Haiti that works for Haitian people.
What is the Solution for Haiti? Occupiers Out Now!
This last 19 months of resistance is building on decades of resistance to colonialism in Haiti. The history of Haiti is a history of struggle between the poor and oppressed majority against intervention and exploitation flooding in from across the globe. Through constant demonstrations, protest and action against the occupation, the people of Haiti have shown their resolve to achieve self-determination.
Days after the July 6th massacre in Cite Soleil 5,000 Haitian people took to the streets against the occupation.
“…they [the UN troops] were firing on Cite Boston...and they killed three children...we can't find their names yet but we will. They also fired upon the church, Notre Dame Immacules, and the front door made of steel blew up. And certainly they attacked the people to intimidate them in order [to get them] not to participate in the demonstrations. But the people threw bottles and rocks at the MINUSTAH so they had to drive back and the people cut [off] the roads so the tanks could not enter Cite Soleil. Finally, the demonstration started around 10:30 A.M. and they were like five thousand strong and protesting against, asking for the illegal government to leave the country so that President Aristide could return and finish his mandate and organize free, fair and democratic elections.”
From a July 14th 2005 Berkeley California-based Flashpoints Radio interview with Haitian journalist Georges Honorat
This is not uncommon in Haiti. Further on in the interview Honorat is asked how the Haitian people manage to overcome the fear of repression and come to the streets to mobilize. He answers simply “…the people in Haiti finally see that they don't have any choice but to fight.”
Self-determination is the beginning of Liberation
Haitian people are not alone in this fight. In occupied countries, sharing the same daily struggle against foreign troops, the Haitian fight is fought. Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine are but a few of the oppressed countries that reflect the same battle which shakes the streets of Cite Soleil, Port Au Prince, Cap Haitian, Bel Air and every inch of the west side of Hispaniola.
The fate of the most powerful militaries that this world has ever seen, now rest in the united hands of each Haitian, Iraqi, Afghan and Palestinian. But it is not by accident that the giants will fall.It is with the resistance from across the globe which presses down, steadily and painfully on these imperialist agressors and war mongerers. Adding the weight of internal resistance and opening the anti-war movement as another front against imperialism is the foremost responsibility that we have as people living in Canada.
The cries in the streets of Haiti ring out with clarity: NO ELECTIONS UNDER OCCUPATION! UN OUT! OCCUPIERS OUT! LET ELECTED PRESIDENT ARISTIDE BACK TO HAITI! For dignity, for freedom, for justice, for a better world, we have no choice but to join them: SELF DETERMINATION FOR HAITI NOW!
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