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U.S. funding right-wing candidates in Haiti

By Les Bayless, in People's Weekly World,
24 June 1995, p. 4

The U.S. Agency for International DeveIopment (AID) has sent over $12 million dollars to right-wing candidates in Haiti, with the promise of more to come, according to documents obtained by the Village Voice, a New York weekly. The purpose of the grants is to create a right wing political movement to offset the strength of the Lavalas movement, the left organization of Haitian workers and peasants which swept President Jean Bertrand Aristide to power. The World has also learned that some of the money may be going indirectly to a new party with lies to the ousted Haitian military junta.

The $12 miilion has been given to a variety of U.S. organizations, including the American Institute for Free Labor Develpment, an AFL-CIO front with close ties to the CIA, and the International Republican Institute (IRI). Haiti is scheduled to have parliamentary and municipal elections Sunday with presidential elections set tentatively for December. Under pressure from the United States, Aristide has agreed not to seek a second term, even though the Haitian Constitution would allow it.

The extent of U.S. manipulation in this Sunday's election surfaced when Manno Charlemagne, a popular leftwing folksinger running as an independent for major of Port-au-Prince charged that his symbol, a guitar, had been left off the 15 million ballots. In a nation where the vaste majority is illiterate, candidates identify themselves by these symbols. The ballots were printed by Sequoia Pacific System of Exeter, California. Charlemagne's opponent is the incumbent mayor of Port-au-Prince, Evans Paul, who is described as close to American Embassy officials and has received tens of thousands of dollars from the United States. . . His party's symbol appears on the ballot. Charlemagne was one of 113 independent candidates whose symbols were left off the ballot.

DeAlix Phararuns, coordinator of Haiti Reborn, a pro democracy group in Washington, said the the actual amount of AID money funneled to Haiti may be much more than $ 12 million. We do know, however, that the money has nothing to do with the building of democracy in my country, he said. Its going to parties that support the World Bank and IMF [International Monetary Fund] demands for Haiti.

Phararuns, who just returned from Haiti, identified one of those parties as PAKA-PALA, which he labeled as the new Duvalist party named for the deposed Duvalier dictatorship. Former members of FRAPH, the part of the deposed military junta, regularly attend their meetings, he said. Phararuns also suspects that U.S.-financed operatives who are tied to the IRI, one of the beneficries of AID, are active in PAKAPALA.

His assumption is supported by the IRI's application to AID, which reads that IRI will conduct local leadership training exclusively for non-Lavalist centrist poltical parties from all 83 election districts. While the Republicans claim to support centrist parties, Phararuns says that members of FRAPH, some of whom are wanted for murder and political assassination, are active in all new conservative political formatons in Haiti.

One of the reasons for U.S. largesse is to preserve Haiti as low-wage mecca for manufacturing industries, Phararuns said. He described U.S. pressure on President Aristide not to increase the minimum wage. Aristide had wanted an increase to $2.95, but was persuaded by U.S. officials to lower his demands.

U.S. factories in Haiti employ neatly 40,000 workers, primarily involved in sporting goods and textile production. Despite millions of dollars of aid to enhance industrial development, there is little evidence that this money ever filters down to the Haitian people. The National Labor Committee, headed by Jack Sheinkman of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, estimates that 85 percent of every dollar of profit from [factory] operations goes directly to the U.S. At the time the Labor Committee visited Haiti in 1993, they found workers in U.S. companies making less than $1 an hour and working 10 hour days.

Haitian leaders, including President Aristide, are skeptical of U.S. plans to aid democracy in Haiti, given the history between the two countries. U.S. involvement in the tiny Caribbean Island dates back to 1915, when the Marines invaded Haiti to restore political stability. During its 20-year occupation of Haiti, the U.S. set up a military-governmental system that is still largely in effect today. The U.S. supported Papa Doc Duvalier and his son, Baby Doc, for 30 years. The hated dictators set up paramilitary terror squads - the so-called Tonton Macoutes - which murdered the Duvalier's political opponents. Haiti is the poorest country in the Westen Hemisphere where, according to the World Bank, 81 percent of the People live in extreme poverty.