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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Thu, 26 Jun 97 10:55:32 CDT
From: rich%pencil@VMA.CC.ND.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: This Week in Haiti 15:14 6/25/97
Article: 13423

/** reg.carib: 209.0 **/
** Topic: This Week in Haiti 15:14 6/25/97 **
** Written 10:59 PM Jun 25, 1997 by haiticom@blythe.org in cdp:reg.carib **
From: Haiti Progres <haiticom@blythe.org>

More sugar for the neoliberal pill

Haiti Progres, This Week in Haiti,
Vol. 15, no. 14, 25 June - 1 July 1997

The search for a new Prime Minister is becoming a quest for Haiti's future. Will the country continue with neoliberal reform or not? As the unstoppable force of globalization meets the immovable object of the Haitian people, a political shockwave is radiating out across the land, leveling the cardboard promises, politicians, and institutions of Haiti's occupation-democracy.

Last year, President Rene Preval confidently charged down the path of neoliberal economic reforms, twisting parliamentary arms and ignoring popular outcry about the consequences of structural adjustment. Today those consequences are hitting Haiti like a sledge-hammer, and now Preval is frantically meeting with any sector who will agree to come to the National Palace in a desperate attempt to fill the Premier's post, from which Rosny Smarth of the ruling party the Lavalas Political Organization (OPL) resigned on June 9 (see Haiti Progres, Vol. 15 No. 12, June 11-17, 1997). Without a Prime Minister to blame, Preval is now directly taking all the heat for the continuing standstill of Haiti's state machinery and economy, which is causing greater hunger and political insecurity daily.

On June 18, Preval summoned mayors from around the country to the capital. Of course, we are not just going to talk about the Prime Minister, said Moise Jean-Charles, the mayor of the northern town of Milot, before the meeting. We are going to put in question the entire government program... We are going to insist that the government change its structural adjustment program and take another orientation for the country to advance. Mayor Jean-Charles recalled that he objected last year when Preval called the Parliament's pressured approval of structural adjustment legislation a victory.

I told him to just wait for 7 or 8 months to see the results, Jean-Charles said, and we can see them today: strikes, demonstrations, conflicts, high cost of living, zenglendos [criminals], and all the rest... We are going to force President Preval to divorce himself from that structural adjustment program.

A meeting the next day with deputies from the North brought a similar message. The parliamentarians from the North are crystal clear, declared Deputy Joseph Jasmin. We are not going to go along with the neoliberal project at all, at all, at all because it does not respond to the people's needs and it cannot help the country get out of the hole it is in.

Although Haitian parliamentarians have ratified several aspects of Preval's structural adjustment plan (albeit with a slim majority of a small quorum), they continue to drag their feet and offer such verbal resistance, especially now that the Haitian people are rising up in anger against neoliberalism and its bogus guarantees of jobs and investment.

This week, the legislators became particularly agitated and vocal as rumors flew that Preval was contemplating to disband the Parliament, as President Alberto Fujimori did in Peru in 1992. I want to tell the nation that the dissolution of parliament is truly being discussed among the international community, in many big embassies, and in fact in the National Palace, asserted Delouis Felix, a deputy from Thiotte. Despite all the attempts of the OPL to make the neoliberal plan work, they see it cannot succeed and they realize that parliament is an obstacle and that it must be dissolved. Felix claims that proponents of this scenario would invoke Article 136 of the 1987 Constitution, which obliquely calls for the President to make the public authorities function normally. Preval says he is surprised by the rumors.

Whether or not the rumors are true, Preval's presidency does closely resemble Fujimori's in other ways. For example, on June 20, the Peruvian announced that he would invest $2.7 billion in social programs, the creation of jobs, and measures to combat his country's growing poverty. Beaten down by the opinion polls, Fujimori plans to abandon the tight fiscal policies demanded by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund [IMF] in an attempt to recover the votes of the poorest sector, with his sights set on the elections of the year 2000, sociologist Imelda Vega told the Inter Press Service.

Meanwhile, on June 18, Preval was saying much the same thing. Today, the people must get a break, we must get some jobs in the country, we must relieve the hunger, Preval told the mayors. To achieve this goal, Preval asked businessmen, unionists, and legislators to help him petition for loans from the lending institutions.

Toward this end, on June 16, Preval had convened another meeting with bureaucrats, businessmen and diplomats to propose a partnership between the state, private sector, and the international community to allow the government to find the means to attack the poor living conditions of the Haitian people in housing, employment, food and other areas, according to the pro- government Radio Haiti Inter.

We think a situation has developed in the country which requires us to considerably reinforce the social component of the [structural adjustment] program, intoned neoliberal technocrat and Finance Minister Fred Joseph at the meeting which included representatives from the World Bank, Inter-american Development Bank, European Union, U.S. Embassy, and French Embassy. In the short term -- the very short-term -- it will be necessary to begin to implement projects of a social character, which is very important to the population today.

A delegation from the IMF just ended a two-week mission to Haiti on June 19 and the delegation leader agreed that it was necessary to respond to the basic expectations of the population as quickly as possible.

Thus, from Fujimori to Preval to the IMF, neoliberals are all agreed: a little more sugar must be put on the pill of austerity to placate growing popular fury because an uprising is growing. For example, demonstrators answering the call of the Movement for National Resistance (MORENA) blocked all the roads into Gonaives, from Ennery to l'Estere, on June 17 and 18 and the highway through Pont Sonde on June 23. In both actions, MORENA was demanding an end to the structural adjustment program and the immediate disoccupation of Haiti i.e. the withdrawal of all foreign troops, the ultimate enforcers of neoliberal reform.

Meanwhile, conservatives in Washington were trying to take advantage of the political free-for-all in Haiti to advance their own program. Last week, the International Republican Institute (IRI), the GOP-wing of the gravely misnamed National Endowment for Democracy, issued a report on the April 6 first-round of municipal and legislative elections. IRI called for the annulment of the polling, the removal of the present Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), and its replacement by a new CEP which should be formed in a democratic and pluralistic manner, i.e. with the participation of Republican-backed politicians in some kind of national conference.

Also speaking out this week, on the airwaves of conservative Radio Metropole, was former World Bank official, presidential candidate, putschist prime minister, and Washington-pawn Marc Bazin. I think I can bill myself as one of the first, if not the first, to propose the idea of a national conference to resolve a political crisis, Bazin said in the June 24 interview. The god- father of neoliberal doctrine in Haiti went on to call for a pause in this [structural] adjustment, or else in 5 or 10 years, we will be even poorer, and there will be no growth... The adjustment being done today is no good and if we continue with it, we are finished.

Despite such duplicitous posturing, Bazin still has his promoters. Among them is eclectic politician Rockefeller Guerre, who proposed Bazin as Prime Minister this week, his first choice being OPL secretary general Gerard Pierre-Charles. Other names floating in the Prime Minister sweepstakes are former Aristide Public Works Minister Frantz Verella (now working for the World Bank) and former Aristide Education Minister and perennial Lavalas strongman Leslie Voltaire.

However, the OPL continues to withhold any replacement candidates and to play a game of chicken with Preval, where it is seeking political concessions and guarantees before it agrees to continue to occupy the Prime Minister's hot seat. We are talking not only about scenarios but also about real mechanisms for consultation so that we can as quickly as possible set up a functioning government, Pierre-Charles said. A government which has resigned by definition cannot deal with the great challenges of the moment, and these challenges are imperative.

Until Pierre-Charles gets his real mechanisms, the OPL will keep a dead hand on the tiller of state, while the misery and rebellion of the Haitian people grows.