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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Wed, 17 Dec 97 16:48:48 CST
From: Haiti Progres <haiticom@blythe.org>
Organization: Haiti Progres
Subject: This Week in Haiti 15:39 12/17/97
Article: 24210

U.S. capitalists seek profits; Haitian people seek justice

Haiti Progres, This Week in Haiti,
Vol. 15, no. 39, 17-23 December 1997

Henry Kissinger is one of the new directors of the Minoterie, Haiti's flour mill. That's right. The same Henry Kissinger who carpet-bombed Vietnam, who held Richard Nixon's hand through the Watergate scandal, who has been the leading ideologue of the Rockefellers and the Eastern establishment of the U.S. bourgeoisie for the past three decades. That Henry Kissinger.

He is a director of the Continental Grain Company, the U.S. agribusiness giant which purchased -- many Haitian parliamentarians say illegally -- 70% ownership of the state flour mill for $9 million in October in conjunction with another agro-behemoth, the Seaboard Corporation of Kansas (see Haïti Progres, Vol. 15, No. 31, October 22 - 28, 1997). Continental Grain is the 5th largest privately held company in the U.S. with sales last year of $16 billion, according to the Dec. 1 issue of Forbes magazine.

Continental Grain and Seaboard first teamed up in 1966 to buy a flour mill in Guayaquil, Ecuador. They are both now globe- straddling transnationals. Continental does business in over 100 countries throughout North American, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. Meanwhile, Seaboard has plants in 17 countries and total export sales in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas of about $342.6 million in 1996.

Seaboard is primarily a pork and poultry producer, having its own ocean-liners to export to the Caribbean. It is likely that the Minoterie will be a beach-head for Seaboard's assault to become Haiti's primary provider of griyo and poule, the meat dishes prepared from Haitian pigs and chickens.

It is therefore no surprise that Continental and Seaboard were held up as models at the 21st Annual Miami Conference of Caribbean and Latin American Action (CLAA), a gathering of U.S. businessmen held last week. Symbolizing how U.S. capitalists are taking over the Haitian economy, U.S. Ambassador William Swing became the de facto spokesperson of the Haitian delegation during the session on Haiti, at least in the eyes of Dr. Kelly Bastien, the president of the Chamber of Deputies, who was also on hand. Unfortunately, despite the presence of representatives of the CMEP [Council for Modernization of Public Enterprises] and the Secretary of Tourism [Maryse Pennett], it was the American ambassador who gave the overview of the social and political situation in Haiti, complained Bastien afterwards. To rectify this irregularity, Bastien felt compelled to give another view of Haiti's needs.

I didn't want to lie to them, Bastien said. I told them that there was a difference between economic growth and development... As public officials, we don't want just any growth, where the population doesn't benefit from the profits that come with growth. We need a redistribution of wealth, and any economic program has to have a social component for education, health- care, housing, etc., what we would call the fundamental rights of all citizens.

Bastien might as well have read Marx's Communist Manifesto to the suits in his audience. His statements so discomforted the CLAA businessmen that Radio Metropole's resident neoliberal economist Kesner Pharel rushed to the airwaves to scold the lawmaker on Dec. 12. The leader of the lower house contradicted in an unseemly way the representatives of the [Haitian] executive branch by presenting a very bleak picture of the economic situation, which his colleagues in the parliament have greatly contributed to creating, Pharel fumed. The specialist in medicine thought it appropriate to give an economics lesson to the investors... Our country's officials must understand that this type of forum is not a good place to express their differences, and when they do it, they will never obtain the development they so desire. In other words, all that is required at a business meeting are pep talks about Haiti's investment opportunities and low wages, rather than a frank discussion of its problems. These are the caring businessmen into whose hands Pharel, President Rene Preval, and other neoliberals want to put Haiti's economic future.

At the CLAA conference, officials from the CMEP said that the plan to privatize key state-owned industries [in Haiti] should be complete by the end of 1998 despite an ongoing political crisis, according to Reuters. Never mind that the political crisis is precisely over whether privatization should proceed at all. Preval's officials are going to push ahead while trying to divert the attention of Haiti's people to other things.

So diversion was largely the purpose of Preval's helicopter trip last week to the town of Jean Rabel in Haiti's impoverished Northwest. He came to promote his supposed agrarian reform, which is really nothing more than a make-shift arrangement whereby the State has become a leasing agent and intermediary between small peasants, who still work the land, and big landowners, who still own it. I started an agrarian reform in the Artibonite, Preval declared on Dec. 12. I have brought it pretty far, and now it can continue to go forward by itself.

But the peasants of Jean Rabel -- many of whom belong to popular organizations like Tet Kole -- told Preval that no kind of agrarian reform was possible in their region without justice. Ten years ago, big landowners formed goon squads which massacred and wounded hundreds of peasants demanding land. You can't do an agrarian reform like the one in the Artibonite here in the Northwest, especially in Jean Rabel, Tet Kole member Pierre Joseph told Preval. Before any real agrarian reform could be done here, the president would have to order the authorities in [the nearby city of] Port-de-Paix to rearrest all the people who participated in the massacre of July 23, 1987.

Meanwhile, a similar call for justice was coming from the town of Gona ves, where on April 22, 1994 at least two dozen fleeing men, women, and children were cut down by gunfire from Haitian soldiers and their paramilitary cohorts. Until now, the Haitian government has somehow managed not to bring to trial the criminals who carried out this massacre.

Worse yet, the U.N. peace-keeping forces also fired on Haitians in Gona ves on November 13, 1995, possibly killing 2 and wounding several others, and nothing has been done about that either. On that day, the U.N. troops fired on the population, and that was right in front of the offices of the MICIVIH [U.N. Civilian Mission in Haiti], declared Father Daniel Roussiere of the Gona ves branch of the human rights group Commission Justice et Paix. The MICIVIH, which just had its mandate renewed for one year last week, is composed of observers who are supposed to monitor human rights violations. Until today, the MICIVIH and the U.N. have never produced any report on this event, Roussiere said. We cannot denounce human rights violations made by Haitians and tolerate those made by the U.N. troops, while the MICIVIH remains silent. This is a true injustice not only toward the victims but toward the Haitian state.

Roussiere also recalled that U.S. soldiers took 160,000 documents from the headquarters of the Haitian Army and the CIA-backed death-squad FRAPH in 1994 and have never returned them to the Haitian government, despite repeated requests. The Haitian people aren't stupid. If the U.S. government really wanted to develop Haiti they would return the documents that could help the Haitian government bring criminals to justice, Roussiere said.

But it's clear, the U.S. government and the U.S. businessmen it represents don't want to develop Haiti. Men like Henry Kissinger, they just want to see growth.