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Peasants voice demands

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

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Apr. 3 (Haiti Info) - Hundreds of peasants gathered at two national congresses recently demanded justice, land and denounced the government for failing to consult them and take actions in their favor.

From March 17 through 20, about 400 delegates from groups throughout the country met for the second congress of Mouvman Peyizan Nasyonal Kongre Papay (MPNKP), a spin-off of Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP), founded in 1973. The following week, over 200 delegates from eight departments gathered for a Tet Kole Ti Peyizan congress. Tet Kole was founded in 1986, and is an outgrowth of the Tet Ansanm movement which started in Jean Rabel in 1973. Both groups have been repeatedly targeted for repression.

The 200 men and women of Tet Kole who gathered last week near Gros Morne reflected on many topics: the current political situation, the role of the peasant in Haiti, the challenges facing their group and all popular organizations, the ways that the neoliberal economic model will effect peasants, the lack of justice, and the upcoming elections.

Although the written resolutions were still being prepared, last week a delegation of three leaders met with a reporter to explain the sense of the congress. They started by describing how Tet Kole sees itself. Although we are a peasant organization, we don't see ourselves as a development organization that does development, one man said. Our battle horse is our demands... We are not going to do all the activities that the state is supposed to do. We can't replace the state. We are here to carry forward the demands of the peasant for land, water, reforestation, fair prices, etc.

Tet Kole is clear on its opposition to the military occupation. It is not in the interest of the popular masses, especially the peasants, said one woman. They [the US] created the disorder and now they say they are 'creating order,' one man said. It's hypocrisy... They say they came to spread democracy... but it's a big game... to guarantee the rights of the US imperialists in the country.

She was also upset about the lack of action from the government to satisfy demands for justice and other reforms. We had a lot of hope... but since Oct. 30 we have been looking for the place for the poor, workers, peasants, to go to find justice. After many months, we do not see where the wind of justice is blowing, she said.

A banner on the wall made Tet Kole's opinion of the president clear: Yesterday, Aristide the militant. Today, the puppet in the US eagle's claws. One of the men noted that none of the governments of Haiti have ever taken steps to ameliorate the peasants' situation. We peasants are losing confidence in what they call elections, he said. We believe that elections will never resolve our problems... We see candidates all over the place, running up and down trying to buy off peasants.

The delegation noted that the government has not made good on any of its promises - prices for consumers are high and for produce is low, there has been no land reform, many section chiefs are still in their regions or at marketplaces where they exploit peasants, there has been no disarmament and the neo-liberal economic model being adopted is going to hurt peasants the most. Tet Kole called once again for the restocking of the country with the kochon kreyol (creole pig) which was eradicated under a US-organized program and led to the increased impoverishment of peasants.

MPNKP's three-day congress was subtitled: Justice, Food & Participation. On March 20 they also held a mass, a rally and march attended by thousands, and celebrated the opening of Radio Vwa Peyizan. (US troops later met with MPNKP leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste for clarification on whether or not he used the word fight in connection with the word occupation in his speech, and informed him that, to the contrary, their mission is merely a presence, and that he should not confuse people.)

In the nine pages of resolutions, MPNKP expressed its dissatisfaction with the current government and made a number of strong demands, including full disarmament, judgement of all corrupt officials, reparations to organizations and individuals who were victims of abuses and demanded lawyers so organizations can assemble legal cases.

The congress also demanded the distribution of state land and creole pigs to farmers, denounced food aid and said the government should push to increase national food production. It called for more participation of peasants and the population in general in the country's political, economic and social activities and called for the decentralization of the state. MPNKP said it opposed the occupation, and also that elections are the weapon the dominant classes have always used to turn the people into zombies. However, it said the upcoming elections are of capital importance.

While many of the MPNKP demands are relevant and reflect demands of the people, taken together they bear Jean-Baptiste's mark of ambiguity and contradiction. Jean-Baptiste remains an advisor of the president and a proponent of elections, but also an opponent of the occupation, as he likes to call himself. In the congress' resolutions he once again shows his inconsistency. (He is also one of the leaders of Oganizasyon Politik Lavalas, and was at the kick-off of the Lavalas platform, but he did not sign the group's platform.)