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Grassroots Struggles Sweep Haiti

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

Growing Haitian frustration with US troops partly reflects efforts by grassroots organizations to regain positions lost during three years of rule by the Haitian military. Over the past month many groups have been demanding that rightwingers be removed from government posts they took after the 1991 military coup. On Jan. 9 a Cap-Haitien group, the Regional Union of Popular Forces of the North (IFPRN) closed down the water bureau, the post office and three other government offices; these remained closed as of Jan. 13. US troops had tried to block a similar demonstration on Dec. 12, leading an activist to remark that these events are making a number of formerly naive sectors in the population see that the foreign troops aren't doing anything except protecting and reinforcing the enemies of the people.

Similar protests shut down government offices in Petit-Goave in the southwest for the first week of January. In Jeremie a local resistance committee led a demonstration that closed the water authority and other offices on Dec. 19. The offices have reopened, but several are now staffed by volunteers. [During the Dec. 19 demonstration a Green Beret threatened the crowd with his bayonet, as was also reported by the New York Times [1/17/95]. However, another US soldier, a Haitian-American, apologized to the crowd and said he agreed with their actions.]

Meanwhile, land disputes in the Artibonite region have led to more than a dozen deaths since October. Four people were killed and seven houses burned down in a dispute in Desdunes earlier this month. A still bloodier conflict is going on between the hamlets of Blain and Brizard over land Blain residents say was taken from them decades ago. The Brizard peasants are protected by some former Haitian soldiers and by rightwing deputy Eddy Dupiton, who is also the local public prosecutor. At least seven Blain residents have died in the struggle, as have two from Brizard. The Catholic Church's Peace and Justice Commission insists that the only long-term solution to such conflicts is reform of the land court system and then a serious agrarian reform.