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The Charlemagne Perale congress: APN launches anti-occupation campaign

From This Week in Haiti,
Vol. 13, no. 11, 7-13 June 1995

Haiti's popular sector is building its resistance to the US/UN military occupation of Haiti and to the Aristide government's concomitant policies of neo-liberal reform and reconciliation with Duvalierism. A new high water mark of this resistance came with the Third National Congress of the National Popular Assembly (APN) from May 25 to 28 in Port-au-Prince.

The APN, one of Haiti's foremost popular organizations, was born 8 years ago. During its founding congress on March 7-8, 1987, which was hosted by then Father Aristide at his parish St. Jean Bosco, the APN dedicated itself to become an independent and combative popular organization which would challenge the opportunism and treachery of Haiti's democratic bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, who advocated, even then, collaboration with imperialism and accommodation with Duvalierism.

These reactionary policies are now championed by the Aristide/Michel government, and APN's Third Congress focussed on re-squaring the struggle for the demands of the December 16, 1990 election, which promised participatory democracy, nationalism, and justice.

The Congress was dedicated to Charlemagne Peralte, the leader who led the Haitian Caco resistance to the 1915 US Marine invasion. The 500 delegates -- peasants, workers, small merchants, artisans, students, and unemployed -- all wore white T-shirts emblazoned with a photo of Peralte and the slogan: For a Haiti which is its own master.

The themes of the Congress were Justice, Privatization, Occupation, and Elections. The delegates addressed these themes in two days of workshops which were consummated in 15 final resolutions. The return of President Aristide on October 15, 1994 under the banner of the American military occupation and the policy of reconciliation are betrayals of the demands of the December 16, 1990 election and the three years of the people's resistance and sacrifice, the first resolution read. Another resolution noted that the people had placed their trust in President Aristide to help advance their demands, but he has today become a puppet in the hands of the occupation forces, which do with him whatever they want. The delegates also resolved that the APN rejects the American military occupation which is using the United Nations as a cover to protect the criminals of the September 30th coup d'etat, to destroy the country's economy, and to steal all the resources of the country.

The APN denounced as demagogy various Aristide government actions such as token distribution of money and food and the establishment of Complaint Bureaus, where coup victims are supposed to individually register their lawsuits against coup criminals, and of the Truth Commission, which is supposed to be investigating coup crimes although it recently declared that its inquiry had come to a standstill due to lack of funding. Faced with the government's lack of will and imagination in pursuing justice, the APN announced that it will form a Commission of Popular Inquiry to assist coup victims in finding justice for repression they endured.

Several resolutions also condemned the neo-liberal death plan of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which has as a center-piece the privatization of Haiti's state industries. The death plan continues to plunge Haiti into an abyss and will bring poverty, hunger, unemployment, censorship, and repression, the APN said.

However, APN's rejection of the occupation elections scheduled for June 25 and July 19 was what generated the most press coverage and national attention. The APN declares that honest, democratic, and secure elections are not possible under the US military occupation, said the resolutions. Instead, the APN called for disarmament, justice, and disoccupation before elections.

Popular choirs, balladeers, film showings, photo displays, and literature tables all lent to the festive yet thoughtful atmosphere of the Congress. Over a dozen foreign delegates from organizations in the United States, Canada, and Argentina addressed the morning plenary sessions, carrying words of encouragement and solidarity. Several other Haitian popular organizations also sent observers.

In short, the Charlemagne Peralte Congress was a reaffirmation of the principles of popular movement and demonstrated the resolve of the APN and the Haitian people to continue their struggle for real democracy, not the variant concocted by the US strategists sponsoring the upcoming elections.

They make us believe that our cries are worthless, sang the delegates in the APN anthem. But history always shows them what we can do, and the clubs, guns, and schemes of the exploiters do not frighten us.