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Haitian government feels mass pressure: Demand grows for higher wages, arrest of killers

By Pat Chin, in Workers World,
25 May 1995

Right-wing terror continues in Haiti eight months after U.S. troops flooded in promising to disarm the killers. The U.S. military occupation now flies the UN flag.

Despite fears of repression from the goon squads of the rich, however, thousands of teachers, students and their supporters took to the streets of Port-au-Prince on May 4. They marched to demand more funds for public education and to protest deteriorating conditions in the public school system.

The protest was led by the National Union of Normal School Teachers of Haiti (UNNOH). It came only days after the government announced budget increases for several ministries.

Salaries for education administrators are slated to go up by 200 to 300 percent, but teachers will get a raise of only 30 to 50 percent. In real terms, this means teachers' wages will barely catch up with where they used to be.

The minimum wage in Haiti was also raised on May 4, to 36 gourds a day. But that only comes to $2.57-- less than the $3 a day President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had promised.

In the case of both the teachers' pay and the minimum wage, it is the eroding value of the gourd against the dollar that has undermined the workers' purchasing power.

The teachers' demonstration started at the Higher Normal School and ended at the National Palace. Learning institutions across Haiti were shut for the day.


Schools for the people do not interest any of the big shots, political parties or the church. They never say a word about it, a UNNOH leader told the chanting crowd.

Demonstrators carried posters assailing Education Minister Emmanuel Buteau. Buteau wants to destroy the public schools so the popular masses will have no consciousness, read one sign.

If the public schools close, the private schools should stand up and say 'No!' explained one private-school youth. Most of the children of the poor, the people who sell charcoal in the streets, go to public school. If they close them, they are closing out the poor masses. (Haiti Info, May 5)

The leaders of UNNOH and many other Haitians see low salaries and inadequate budgets for public services as part of the neoliberal economic model forced on Haiti by Washington and the International Monetary Fund. Under an economic plan agreed to by the Aristide administration, government industries will be privatized, jobs and public services will be cut, and tariffs on imported items will be lowered.

UNNOH and other unions are threatening a massive strike if their demands for better wages and working conditions are not met.


Over 1,000 people gathered in the town of Raboteau on May 2 to honor the victims of one of the bloodiest slaughters committed by the military coup regime of Gen. Raoul Cedras. Cedras was allowed to leave Haiti with a fortune after the U.S. troops arrived.

Two popular groups, Jen Militan nan Raboto and Organizasyon Popile Demokratik Raboto, organized the event.

The massacre happened in the early morning of April 22, 1994, when dozens of soldiers and members of the CIA-linked death squad FRAPH invaded Raboteau, a poor town in Gonaives and a stronghold of support for Aristide.

When the people, some of them half-dressed, tried to escape, they were shot in the back. Many ran toward the sea, hoping to find safety. They were mowed down by armed men waiting in boats. At least 25 people were killed.

Raboteau residents have submitted a list of the Haitian soldiers and FRAPH killers responsible for the attack to Haiti's minister of information, but so far nothing has been done.

Elections for hundreds of offices, including all deputies and most senators, are fast approaching. The U.S. government and some private groups like the CIA-linked Soros Foundation are pouring in money for these elections with the excuse that it is meant to buy democracy.

At the same time, mass protests are multiplying over the continuing deterioration of social conditions.

Against this background, President Aristide met on April 30 with several hundred peasant leaders. The great majority of Haitians are peasants, who have been extremely oppressed by the landlord class.

After the meeting, Aristide declared the formation of the Institute of Agrarian Reform, as called for in the constitution. He also announced the distribution of some land titles and 10,000 creole pigs to various peasant groups. The sturdy creole pig was almost wiped out in the 1980s after a swine flu virus and then a deliberate eradication program carried out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This has been a sore point with peasant organizations like Tet Kole Ti Peyizan and Mouvman Peyizan Nasyonal Kongre Papay. They see the U.S. government as responsible for their landlessness, the military occupation and even killing off their main source of protein.