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Date: Wed, 10 Feb 1999 18:13:07 -0600 (CST)
From: "Workers World" <ww@wwpublish.com>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: Haiti: Popular protests condemn senate
Article: 54503
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.9311.19990212061525@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Feb. 11, 1999 issue of Workers World newspaper

Popular Protests Condemn Senate

By G. Dunkel, in Workers World,
11 February 1999

Bosses and workers took opposite positions on Haitian President Rene Preval's recent decision to dissolve the reactionary Haitian Senate.

The wealthy class of the Haitian cities--the bourgeoisie-- called a general strike in Haiti Jan. 22 to demand that Preval restore the Senate to power. Few participated.

Schools and big stores closed in Haiti's capital Port-au- Prince, but public transportation, street vendors and even the assembly plants worked. All the major unions rejected the strike call.

Revi Elius, head of the Union of Public Transport Drivers in Port-au-Prince, said, "We might strike for better roads or gasoline prices but not for those guys to get back in power."

Elius was referring to the Haitian senators whose terms ended in early January. At that time, Preval rejected their decision to unilaterally extend their terms and said he would run the country by decree.

On Jan. 25, tens of thousands of people came out to denounce the Senate. Schools were open but unattended. Banks closed. The streets were empty because everyone went to the march.

They gathered at the ruins of St. Jean Bosco, Jean- Bertrand Aristide's parish church before he was elected president with 70 percent of the vote in 1990. The reactionary Ton Ton Macoutes had earlier destroyed that church in an attack that left dozens of people dead or mutilated.

Then the marchers proceeded to the National Palace, where the president lives. They chanted, "Down with the OPL," referring to the party that controls the Senate, and, "OPL out of parliament."

They were upset that the senators were still driving government four-wheel drive automobiles, carrying parliamentary pistols and cell phones, and drinking bottled water--privileges allowed Haitian senators.

Along with demonstrating against the parliament, the demonstrators made it clear they were opposed to the climate of reactionary violence now widespread in the country, and against hunger and unemployment.

The People's Power Youth Organization (JPP), the Coordination of St. Jean Bosco (KOSEJAB) and the National Popular Assembly (APN) were among the 50 popular organizations that called the demonstration.

Edouard Baker, an APN leader, told a television crew: "Today and on Jan. 11, the people took to the street to tell President Preval to respect the constitution, to respect the Electoral Law, and to say that the parliamentarians have to go because their mandate is over."


In a Jan. 6 news release, U.S. Rep. Porter Goss of Florida, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, claimed there has been "$2 billion in U.S. taxpayer assistance to Haiti in the past few years."

This vast amount of money has done nothing to help the Haitian masses.

Haitians have less access to clean water, sanitation, education, health care, transportation, electricity and government services than they did under the last Duvalier, according to United Nations Human Development Project statistics.

This $2 billion went to pay for the 20,000 U.S. soldiers who invaded Haiti in 1993. It went for their bases and the UN troops and bases. A good chunk went to the agents of the United States in Haiti.

It didn't go to the people.

Jan. 22, the same day as the bourgeoisie's failed "strike," four far-right U.S. senators--including Jesse Helms--submitted a resolution claiming that "on Jan. 11, President Rene Preval seized dictatorial powers."

It demanded that the Organization of American States "consider joint actions to bring about a return to democracy" in Haiti.