A Dominican invasion of Haiti?
This Week in Haiti, Vol.17 no.34, 10-16 November 1999
Washington is goading the Dominican Republic to militarily invade its neighbor in order to provide the pretext for a new full-scale United States/United Nations occupation of Haiti and to derail the likely re-election of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in November 2000.
This was the analysis put forward by the National Popular Party (PPN) in a Nov. 8 press conference in Port-au-Prince following a week of unprecedented violence, threats, and expulsions directed against Haitians and Haitian-ancestry Dominicans in the Dominican Republic.
"It is a very grave situation," said Ben Dupuy, secretary general of the PPN. "But the Haitian government is pursuing an ostrich policy by presenting this as a simple problem of immigration and of Haitian workers without papers."
Haitian Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis has asked the Dominican Republic to respect the accords signed when Dominican President Lionel Fernandez visited Haiti in June 1998 (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 16, No. 14, 6/24/98). Otherwise there could be a deterioration in relations between the two countries, Alexis said. Whether they are respected or not, the accords remain legally questionable, since they were never presented for ratification by the Haitian parliament.
The PPN reminded Alexis that the law of force is much stronger than the supposed force of law, as was expressed well by Haitian President Sténio Vincent when he was faced with Dominican president Rafael Trujillo's 1937 massacre of between 20,000 and 35,000 Haitians: "We are a China pot against an iron pot." The Dominican Republic today has close to 100,000 troops versus only 6,000 Haitian police officers. The PPN also questioned how seriously one could take the pious bluster of men like Alexis, who flagrantly violate their own domestic accords. For example, Haitian teachers are now striking because Alexis has trampled a 1997 agreement he signed with them.
The situation today is reminiscent of that before the coup d'état in 1991, when Lavalas government officials tried to reassure the people, as the coup was unfolding, that the situation was not serious and would be worked out. Of course, the people's worst fears were realized.
Last week, Father Yves Edmond came from the Dominican Republic to alert Haitian public opinion about the dark turn of events there. "This time, I think that it is the honor, the dignity of Haiti that [the Dominican authorities] need to destroy and eliminate, and thus there is all this aggressivity in the streets, on television, on the radio, and in the newspapers. This gives one pause... It is like a hurricane, a volcano which is rising up against the Haitians there and which will break like a wave on Haiti," said Father Edmond.
In fact, the Dominican authorities are trying to psychologically prepare Dominican and international public opinion for an armed aggression against Haiti, the PPN said. The players in this campaign are the conservative elite, the army, and the Catholic Church hierarchy as represented by Cardinal Lopez Rodriguez.
According to Sonia Pierre of the Santo Domingo-based Movement of Haitian-Dominican Women (MUDHA), Rodriguez asked the government and the Dominican people to address the "invasion" of the DR by poor Haitians looking for work because Dominican nationality was "not a prize won in a lottery but in a bitter struggle." He added that one cannot throw all the problems of Haiti onto the Dominican Republic which is also a poor country. In conclusion, Cardinal Rodriguez formally asked the "great countries" which are friends of Haiti and the Dominican Republic to occupy Haiti until it gets under way economically.
In line with Rodriguez's analysis, a demonstration is being organized for Nov. 20 to protest the Haitian "invasion." Victor Gomez, the former foreign minister of the notoriously anti- Haitian and racist president Joaquin Balaguer, is organizing the march and has received the support of the Dominican ruling classes. They have all railed against a recent report published by the Human Rights Commission of the OAS which denounces the unjust treatment of Haitian agricultural workers and the hypocrisy of the Dominican government, which refuses to give Dominican nationality to children between the ages of 10 and 15 born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents, as is required under the Dominican constitution. (Meanwhile, in New York, progressive Haitian and Dominican groups are organizing a counter-demonstration in front of the UN on Nov. 18 to condemn the campaign against Haitians and their Dominican children).
The PPN recalled that the "laboratory" (as Haitians call the Pentagon/CIA axis) took many measures to destabilize the Lavalas government during its 7 months in power in 1991. One of the most destabilizing pressures was the massive deportation of Haitians from the DR by Balaguer. Once again today, Republicans in the US Congress, such as Senator Jesse Helms and Congressman Benjamin Gilman, want to thwart the Lavalas electoral victory which is now on the horizon, just as they were opposed to Dec. 16, 1990 election of Aristide, the PPN said. Thus, the "laboratory" is sowing insecurity and anarchy in Haiti so as to create a state of ungovernability.
Meanwhile, President Bill Clinton cannot ask for another military intervention of Haiti by the US or the UN to arrange things to Washington's liking without admitting to his Republican adversaries that his Haitian policy is a failure. Thus, forces in Washington seek to block the return to power of the Lavalas by encouraging a Dominican intervention under the pretext that Haiti has become ungovernable, which is touted as the principal reason for the "invasion" of the DR by desperate Haitians seeking work.
Also according to the PPN analysis, the US could go to the UN to ask for a "peace-keeping" force to be interposed and "push back" the Dominicans, who would accept to leave voluntarily. "The recent decision of the United States to withdraw their 500 permanent troops is a way to not be present when the Dominican forces invade," Dupuy said. In such a scenario, the "peace- keepers," when they finally return, might even be able organize general elections before November 2000, thereby disqualifying Aristide as a candidate. (A president must wait 5 years to run again).
Alexis has asked for a meeting between the Haitian and Dominican foreign ministers. But this guarantees nothing. After his "friendly" meetings between Haitian President René Préval in 1998, Fernandez had no qualms about almost immediately and brutally repatriating thousands of Haitians.
There are several other economic and political factors driving the Dominican offensive. Presently in the Dominican Republic, the government is privatizing the famous CEA (State Sugar Council), which will likely bring about the rapid mechanization of sugar production. Then, they will no longer need Haitian braceros. Also, conservative Dominicans who supported coup makers General Raoul Cédras and Colonel Michel Francois have sworn never to accept the emergence of a popular government in Haiti.
For all these reasons, the PPN calls on the Haitian government to "stop minimizing the matter and present it without delay before the UN Security Council, to make it an international concern, and to denounce this threat of intervention before it happens."
Once before in history, the Haitian government under-reacted in a time of crisis. As Trujillo began his week-long massacre of Haitians in 1937, President Sténio Vincent remarked: "It's nothing. It is just a peasant uprising on the frontier."
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