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US occupation forces want to stay in Haiti indefinitely

From Haiti Info,
Vol. 13, no. 3, 12-18 April 1995

When graffiti asking the US to stay in Haiti for 50 years appeared on walls in Haiti, many suggested that it was orchestrated by US Psychological Operations forces to enhance the image of the US occupation among Haitians and American TV viewers. However, it turns out that some in the US military really do want to stay in Haiti beyond Feb. 1996, when the US/UN military forces are supposed to clear out.

According to an article in the Mar. 31 edition of The Wall Street Journal, US officials are actively planning for a long-term occupation. The UN mandate, they say, may have to be extended, and a few companies of US infantry may be needed indefinitely to keep Haiti quiet, said the newspaper. One US general told the Journal's reporter that a long-term presence of perhaps 500 troops would be a small price to pay to ensure stability in a region so close to the US. On Apr. 11, the UN military commander, US Maj. Gen. Joseph W. Kinzer, echoed these reports, saying that UN troops might have to remain longer given what we have invested in this enterprise here in Haiti. It would be a shame to pass up the opportunity for this country to get its feet on the ground and start on the journey toward democracy and self- government, Kinzer dead-panned. In other words, Haiti now needs less self-government so it can have more self-government. President Aristide would now do well to ponder the size of the foot he has allowed in Haiti's door.

US planners, though, might be in for a surprise. Only days after President Aristide led crowds of Haitians through his chronic chant of Thank you, President Clinton during the latter's Mar. 31 visit to Haiti, growing opposition to the US occupation erupted into open clashes between demonstrators and US forces in Port-au-Prince. On Apr. 7, outside a US military base near the Port-au-Prince airport, US and UN soldiers fired tear gas into a crowd apparently protesting over jobs. The troops were attacked with a barrage of rocks. No injuries were immediately reported, but the debris-covered airport road was closed for hours. There is no unemployment office. There is nothing we can do but block this road. Then maybe they will hear us, one protester told The Associated Press.

Again, on Apr. 10 and Apr. 11, hundreds rallied outside Camp Democracy, setting up barricades. We don't want elections. We want jobs. We want to eat, one news article quoted the protesters as saying. You cannot have an election with hungry people. The demonstrators called on the government to improve the people's standard of living and slammed Prime Minister Smarck Michel. US Brig General James T. Hill, the deputy commander of US forces in Haiti, spoke with the protesters and promised - in an ironic twist - to communicate their concerns to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, according to Reuters.

Symptomatic of the deteriorating situation in Haiti was the US Coast Guard's capture of 138 Haitians and Dominicans on a boat just 25 miles off Miami, the largest interception of refugees since President Aristide returned to Haiti last October. The Coast Guard claimed they stopped the boat because it was dangerously overcrowded. The group of 126 Haitians and 12 Dominicans left Cap Haitien on Mar. 27 in a 45-foot boat and were intercepted on Apr. 6, the Coast Guard said. Two of the Haitians were flown to Miami for medical treatment. All of the other passengers were returned Apr. 8 to Port-au-Prince.

Meanwhile, the US-financed municipal and parliamentary elections, which had been set for Jun. 4, will be pushed back another three weeks, the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide announced this week. The move represents another blow to the Lavalas bourgeoisie, since time works against their strategy of using Aristide's personal popularity to sweep the occupation elections.

In fact, the elections are only adding gasoline to the fire under Aristide's presidential throne. Parties ranging from social- democratic to Duvalierist are bitterly challenging the composition of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) and regional voting bureaus, saying they are stacked with sympathizers of the Organisation Politique Lavalas (OPL), which represents Aristide and the Lavalas bourgeoisie. The CEP also faces deliberately sluggish funding from the US government and an intimidation campaign of threats and violence from hard-line Duvalierism, all in a climate of deepening economic hardship and insecurity. (See Occupation Elections Bound For Trouble, Haiti Progres, Mar. 29, 1995.) After an Apr. 6 meeting with General Kinzer, UN officials, and more than 20 political parties, the CEP decided to extend the deadlines for voter and candidate registration. The ballot for the entire Chamber of Deputies, two-thirds of the Senate, some 130 municipal councils, and 660 municipal councils will now supposedly take place on June 25. The runoff elections will be pushed back to July 16. The elections were originally slated for last December.

The postponement comes as little surprise, and there will be more, especially with respect to the Presidential elections now set for December. Despite Aristide's sycophancy toward President Bill Clinton, his embrace of the occupation, and his government's adoption of one of the hemisphere's most severe International Monetary Fund austerity programs, the US government still does not trust the Lavalas sector and is devising its elimination through elections. One opening for voting fraud came to light when Anselme Remy, the Lavalassian president of the CEP, complained Apr. 3 that the ballots for the Haitian elections will be printed in California rather than Haiti. If US election engineers want to print up thousands of extra ballots to influence the outcome on election day, the task is now much easier. The CEP disagreed with Washington's printing dictates, but, said Remy, it has become clear that the money is US money.