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Date: Wed, 13 Sep 1995 21:06:36 -0700 (PDT)
From: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@crl.com>
To: Bob Corbett <bcorbett@crl.com*#62;
Subject: This Week in Haiti 13:25 9/13/95
Message-Id: <Pine.SUN.3.91.950913210550.17638A-100000@crl9.crl.com>

Carrying privatization football, Aristide feints left, cuts right

In Haiti Progres, This Week in Haiti,
Vol. 13, no. 25, 13-19 September 1995

After sometimes pretending in recent weeks to be sympathetic to popular outcry against the structural adjustment program (SAP) being forced by the US government and multilateral lenders on Haiti, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has launched an all-out blitz to sell the neo-liberal shock therapy to a skeptical and resistant population, both in Haiti and its diaspora.

The flagship of the propaganda flotilla dispatched from Port-au- Prince last week was the team of Prime Minister Smarck Michel and Finance Minister Marie-Michele Rey. The two left the capital Sept. 5 on a 10-day junket beginning in Washington, DC, where they met with high-level officials from the World Bank, the president of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the vice- president of the Inter-American Development Band (IDB) as well as US vice-president Al Gore and Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

While Michel portrayed the visit as routine, the Sept. 7 London Financial Times reported the trip to be a more urgent effort at unlocking about [$1 billion] in foreign aid stalled after a political row in Haiti about planned privatization. The Times reported that nationalist protests were threatening the planned privatization of Haiti's state industries and the trouble has put in doubt Haiti's access to foreign donor funds.

Michel's mission was to reassure foreign lenders and plead for time. We are going ahead with the reforms, Michel said in Washington Sept. 8. According to the InterPress Service, he also said that the timetable for selling off the companies may have to be delayed to give more time to the government to explain the programme to the people.

The next day, Michel was in New York where, after meeting with commercial bankers, he went straight to work trying to convince the Haitian people that they have no choice but to accept all US- dictated reforms. At a Sept. 9 press conference with Haitian media, Michel said that at each meeting in Washington he was asked: How is privatization going, how far along is it? Michel also said that the World Bank, IMF, and IDB were collectively holding back an immediate disbursement of $150 million until we fulfill the conditions which structural adjustment demands. He warned, as he has recently done repeatedly, that there would be dire consequences - i.e. a cutoff of all foreign aid - if the Haitian people resisted.

During the over 2 hour press conference, Michel almost proudly related his meeting with House Speaker Newt Gingrich last February, saying he had pleaded for time. Everything has already been signed, Michel said he told Gingrich. Give me one year, don't challenge [the Haitian government] so I have time to do my job. [Gingrich] said... I'll give you one year. Michel finished the math for the journalists: It has been 7 months since he told me that, so I told them [at my meetings in Washington] that I have 5 months to go, we are hurrying. It is rare that a head of government so nonchalantly relates how he is racing to follow the dictates of a foreign master, not even a president in this case, but a mere legislator. Such is the subservience of Haiti's portrait government...

Meanwhile, in other US cities, the Lavalas bourgeoisie's intellectuals began fanning out to explain on the airwaves and at meetings why privatization was not so bad. In Miami on Sept. 9, politician Michel Soukar and economist Kesner Pharel addressed hundreds at a hotel hall, mustering arguments and statistics to prove that modernization and democratization - the terms which the Haitian government prefers to privatization - were, in fact, desirable in the New World Order. Earlier in the week, an official from the Haitian Ministry of Information spread pro- SAP gospel at the weekly meeting of the Miami community organization Veye Yo, distributing glossy color government brochures to the audience.

However, the government's campaign seems to be futile as opposition to and mobilization against privatization grows in Haiti. Aristide has sought to embrace the protests in an attempt to smother them. Such was the nature of a meeting of unions from the 9 state enterprises to be nationalized - the cement plant, flour mill, the telephone, water, and electricity authorities, port, airport, and banks - at the National Palace on Sept. 5.

To privatize the cement plant and the other enterprises, means totally removing from state hands any economic power and giving it to the private sector which has shown itself to be against the people, the representative of the cement workers union said. In such a situation, we wouldn't need a president or a government anymore... We would have given the country to the bourgeoisie and said 'Do what you want with it.'

The unions came with extensive figures and analysis to demonstrate the viability of the state enterprises, particularly during the 7 months of Lavalas government in 1991. The representative of the flour mill workers union explained how the bourgeoisie had sabotaged machinery at various enterprises to create difficulty and justify the myth that they were inviable. Our flour mill is the largest flour mill in the Caribbean and the day it is functioning to capacity, it can provide flour not only for Haiti but also for export, thereby creating foreign revenues. He continued: privatization means for us a direct return to slavery and a slavery more savage than that which we fought in 1804, when Haiti won its independence.

The same day, the Popular Assembly of Women (RFP) rallied about 100 protesters in front of the National Palace. The IMF has landed, and it says I owe, the demonstrators chanted. I don't owe.

On Sept. 8, demonstrators in Cap Haitien rallied to protest privatization and the firing of 3 leaders of the union of the electric company (EDH). Many popular organizations participated in the action, including the National Popular Assembly (APN).

On Sept. 11, the popular organization SAJ/Veye Yo and other Ti Legliz groups brought out hundreds at St. Jean Bosco, the burned- out church where Aristide used to preach, to denounce privatization and the total lack of justice for the crimes of the coup. They want to force the people to believe that today the anti-imperialist battle is over, the organizers said in a flyer, referring to the opportunist-populist sector. They called for a total mass uprising against the IMF death plan, the privatization project, the American sharks, the bourgeois vultures, and the traitorous politicians.

(Probably to avoid the SAJ/Veye Yo demonstration, Aristide chose to visit St. Jean Bosco at midnight on Sept. 11, the anniversary of the 1988 massacre there where 12 parishioners were killed and over 80 wounded by rampaging Duvalierists. Sept. 11 also marks the anniversary of the 1993 slaying by a putchist death-squad of Antoine Izmery, a democracy activist and prominent businessman who backed Aristide's 1990 presidential campaign.)

The Collective for Mobilization Against the IMF and Neo- Liberalism held a press conference on Sept. 7, where it assailed the Haitian government's rationale for the privatization push, particularly the supposed need cut government payrolls by 45% to 90% so there is money to pay the giant multilateral and commercial banks who are imposing the SAP on Haiti. The servicing of Haiti's debt is about 200 million gourdes [per month], said Claude Rene of the Collective. That equals the salary for 9,523 employees for a month in the public administration, so we ask why pay that debt.

The Collective is joining with at least 12 other popular organizations, including SAJ/Veye Yo, APN, Komite Lit Etidyan (KLE), and Konbit Komilfo, to call for a major demonstration in Port-au-Prince on Sept. 19, the first anniversary of Haiti's second US occupation. The calls of the demonstration are to denounce the second occupation, demand justice for all the victims of the terror of the bourgeoisie, Macoutes, and imperialists, and block the efforts of the Aristide/Michel government to sell the country to foreign capitalists, particularly Americans.

The demonstration is doubly well timed because on Sept. 18 a delegation from the World Bank, IMF, and IDB will arrive in Haiti to review the progress of Haiti's SAP. The Haitian government will surely give the officials a warm welcome, but the people in the Haiti's streets are likely to make the reception a little warmer than is comfortable.