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From: Stan Goff <stangoff@all4democracy.org>
To: brc-news@lists.tao.ca <brc-news@lists.tao.ca>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Haiti? The IMF?
Date: Thursday, April 27, 2000 10:50 AM

Haiti? The IMF?

By Stan Goff <stangoff@all4democracy.org>, 19 April 2000

Haiti was the world's first independent Black republic. It won that independence in a bloody revolt of slaves, who prevailed against the three dominant European militaries. This shattered the myth of white supremacy at a time when slave labor was still the economic foundation of every surrounding country, to include the new United States. As punishment, Haiti has been attacked, exploited, and vilified every since.

That vilification is continuing apace. Unfortunately, the US press has been led to uncritically collaborate in the distortion and stereotyping of Haiti. The US foreign policy establishment's agenda for Haiti is largely determined by the orthodoxy of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. The IMF and World Bank just became the target of massive protests in Washington DC on the 15th and 16th of April. So it may be timely to begin demystifying Haiti's current situation with that in mind.

Elections for parliament in Haiti have been postponed. This postponement is being portrayed by an uncritical press as President Rene Preval ruling by decree, after having sacked Parliament, and trying to hang onto power for his former colleague Aristide. Aristide, who is again running for president and quite likely to win, is running in November. The rumor is that Preval is helping Aristide by postponing the parliamentary elections until the presidential elections, so Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas Party will sweep the parliamentary elections on Aristide's popular coat tails.

The truth is that parliament's tenure was finished in 1999, and the majority of major political parties agreed to postponement of elections until they could be run properly. The remaining government is not dominated by Fanmi Lavalas or any other party, the ministers coming from a polyglot of political parties. Moreover, the separation of parliamentary elections from presidential elections is not mandated in the Haitian Constitution. That separation was the brainchild of the United States Embassy, who had put pressure on the Haitian government to separate them, precisely because they do not want to see Aristide and his party win. We certainly hold our presidential and congressional elections at the same time of the year.

The United States foreign policy establishment demanded that Haiti not only separate the elections, they demanded the use of photo identification cards for every voter in a country where many are not literate, accessible by vehicle, or in possession of birth certificates. The cards were selectively issued, with massive shortages just before the scheduled elections in March, which caused a near nationwide rebellion by a populace who rightly believed that they were being disfranchised. That was the cause of the latest delay.

In conjunction with these demands, the US aggressively funded-through National Endowment for Democracy grants-the development of a faux opposition party, called Espace de Concertacion. The whole purpose of Espace was to whittle away at Fanmi Lavalas' parliamentary seats. By Haitian law, a President Aristide must have a parliamentary majority to appoint the Prime Minister from his own party. The Prime Minister is the person who has the real executive authority.

The purpose of this dual strategy, then, is to ensure that if Aristide gets into office, he can't exercise any power.

Still the press continues to give superficial and distorted accounts of Haiti that leave the impression of general Haitian deviancy, corruption, and ineptitude. It seems they should look more closely at the long-standing relationship between the most specifically deviant, corrupt, and inept leaders in Haiti past and present, and note how often these very people were underwritten by the US State Department and the CIA.

So what does all this have to do with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank? And why should the United States establishment be so dead set against Aristide?

The International Monetary Find and the World Bank are dominated by the United States, and the dominant stakeholders in those institutions are American finance capitalists. In simple terms, the IMF and the World Bank have much in common with loan sharks. They do not come to countries' rescue. They hold out loans to desperate countries to restructure their debts, and take on more debt-which they can ill afford-in exchange for acceptance of draconian adjustments to economic structures that are beneficial only to a small local elite who are working with transnational corporations (TNCs). These are called structural adjustment programs (SAPs). Their purpose is to pry developing economies open for domination by the TNCs and international speculators.

That's what all the hoopla was about in Washington DC April 16th.

These SAPs are the lowering of tariffs, which in Haiti means subsidized foreign goods run local producers out of their own market; suppression of labor unions, which in Haiti means people continuing to work for $3 a day in sweatshops; privatization of state owned enterprises, which in Haiti means transferring the proceeds to a private foreign corporation instead of into social services and infrastructure; downsizing of the public sector, which in Haiti would mean around 45,000 additional jobs lost in a country with over 70 percent unemployment; imposition of taxes on basic commodities, which in Haiti is the continuation of a regressive tax system that has let the rich off the hook and will further immiserate the poor; and the cancellation of what few social services still exist there.

What's the US objection to Aristide?

He might not support this sterling program.

The vast majority of Haitians already object to it, but that doesn't fit with Uncle Sam's notion of manageable democracy. Their fear is not that Haiti will fail in the absence of structural adjustment. The fear is that they will progress. That's a very bad example. It's Haiti being independent again, and it won't be tolerated.

The irony is that while they are trying so desperately to keep the lid on in Haiti, it's just come off in Washington DC.