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Date: Sun, 15 Jan 1995 19:47:06 GMT
From: Haitian Information Bureau (hib@igc.apc.org)
Subject: Haiti Info v.3, #7 NEW YEAR...
To: Multiple recipients of list ACTIV-L (ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu)

Below is the table of contents and lead story from the most recent issue of Haiti Info, the newsletter of the Haitian Information Bureau.

New Year, Same Struggle. New Challenges and Contradictions Will Mark 1995

Haiti Info Editorial,
Vol. 3, no. 7, 14 January 1995

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan. 12 - The year is opening with millions of dollars worth of promises being made under a dark and foreboding economic plan, the Haitian people still struggling for economic and social justice and the country still occupied by a foreign military force.

Many of the plans for 1995 already agreed to by the Jean-Bertrand Aristide government do not favor a democratic and independent future for the country. The situation on the ground - the occupation, spurious aid programs, continued violence, corruption and extortion, high prices and elections under problematic circumstances - has already caused many in the democratic and popular movement to move away from and criticize the government, and is now beginning to effect the attitudes of the Haitian population in general.

Under this pressure, and recognizing the loss of influence over the population, Aristide has begun to talk about the issues which concern them. In the traditional Jan. 2 speech, which emphasized peace for 1995, he mentioned justice and lavi che, or the high cost of living, but whether words will become action is still unknown.

As the months unfold, the challenges will be many and they will be complex for those struggling for real democracy and economic and social progress here, as well as for those overseas that support them.

Elections Under the Gun & the Dollar

Late last year and at the urging of the U.S., the government and the country's traditional political parties agreed to a provisional reconciliation Electoral Council. Among its members are people from parties which supported the coup d'etat, and one from a Duvalierist party, in violation of the 1987 constitution barring that sector from the government for ten years. More shocking still is the presence of Francis Merisier, who was in the illegal Electoral Council which oversaw de facto Prime Minister Marc L. Bazin's illegal elections on Jan. 18, 1993.

Despite this, the Lavalas sector, although viciously qualified as the left in the reactionary press, is rushing headlong into the races. Oganizasyon Politik Lavalas (OPL) and the older parties, FNCD, MOP and KONAKOM, are lining up candidates for all of the over 2,000 offices up for grabs and have embarked on a series of meetings, the first one hosted by Aristide at the palace, in an attempt to create unity. The president is hoping that he can achieve a majority in parliament which will support him and give him a margin of maneuver in the face of U.S. pressure and programs.

But despite the fact that among the candidates are those who have defended the demands of the Haitian people in the past, it is crucial to understand that the conditions under which the elections are being organized and carried out will not permit full democratic and participatory contests: a climate still marred by the violence or potential violence from the still-armed right- wing, a government and indeed, a country, riddled with U.S. advisors and consultants dispensing literally millions of dollars and, most important of all, a military occupation.

An Economic Plan Made in the USA

The campaign hoopla will be stealing the limelight as an insidious economic structure - one sought by the U.S. and the multilateral funders since the eighties - is laid in place. On Jan. 30, Haitian officials will meet once again with the donors in Paris, this time to sign on the dotted line and agree to such neoliberal measures as open borders, a pro-assembly industry climate, sale of state-owned industries and reduction of state services. [See many issues, like v.2, #26]

As President Aristide is well aware, the Haitian population will not stand for the changes, which only promise to increase its economic marginalization. In 1987, they took to the streets to protest then-Finance Minister Leslie Delatour who today heads the central bank and is considered the neoliberal lightning rod of the administration. Not surprisingly, a sector of the feudal, monopolist bourgeoisie which is also reticent if not openly hostile to the planned changes, since they will lose their privileges.

Perhaps for that reason, the reactionary Le Nouvelliste ran a long three-part article where Delatour, all the time saying they were his private opinions, outlined his economic philosophy and explained why competition and other aspects of neoliberalism are the keys to Haiti's future.

The president has been attempting to appease both dissenting sectors - the masses and the monopolists. For example, while attending parties with the elite, he also promises to bring down prices, a measure which would directly effect the business sector's profits. Aristide even hinted at unrest, the elite's nightmare, when he said on Jan. 2: When there is hunger in your stomach, there is no peace in your head.

Concretely however, Aristide's policies will not lead to lower prices, and his central bank president has decreed price controls and state subsidies never work. The president's promises and speech are another example of the distance between his words and actions, and even give his enemies something they could someday use against him.

Justice Still Just a Word

The other demand heard every day is for justice. Three months after his return, the president still has not announced plans for judgements or reparations. On Jan. 2 he said: With peace, we will make the grease of the reconciliation pig cook the pig of justice... Reconciliation among all and peace for all. That is the royal road that leads to peace.

Demands on the president and his justice minister [see related story] may bring some satisfaction to the population, but the chorus of reconciliation still lingers in the air, and is evoked each time a question of principle comes up. In addition, the conflict with the U.S. over the new army and police shows signs of contradiction, even if they develop within an overall domination by the U.S. which excludes other traditionally influential powers here like France and Canada.

In spite of those contradictions however, the democratic and popular movement's leaders have recognized that, far from being a year of democracy and peace, 1995 will be a year of struggle to expel the military occupation and all that has come with it.