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From editor@haiti-progres.com Mon Apr 30 08:21:03 2001
Date: Sat, 28 Apr 2001 16:41:41 -0500 (CDT)
From: =?iso-8859-1?Q?Haiti_Progr=E8s?= <editor@haiti-progres.com>
Subject: This Week in Haiti 19:6 4/25/2001
Article: 119032
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Seeking approval at summit, Aristside slapped instead

Massive protests buffet meeting of hemisphere's heads of state

By Kim Ives & Greg Dunkel, Haiti Progres, This Week in Haiti,
Vol. 19, no. 6, 25 April - 2 May 2001

Clearly, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had hoped that his participation in the Third Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, Canada from April 20 - 22 would provide consecration of his legitimacy, in the words of his Justice Minister Gary Lissade.

Instead, the U.S. and Canadian orchestrators of the Summit used the occasion to pillory Aristide and wring more concessions from him.

Democracy in certain countries is still fragile, said Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chritien, who played the heavy for Washington. We are particularly concerned about the case of Haiti. We note the problems which continue to limit the democratic, political, economic and social development of this country.

Chritien also pressured Aristide to take rapid action on all of the commitments made in December, reference to a sovereignty- and-democracy-trampling list of eight conditions which Washington wants Aristide to implement (see Haoti Progrhs, Vol. 18 No. 51, 4/7/2001).

The mainstream press took their cue and wasted no time in lambasting the Haitian president. Aristide was an embarrassment to some leaders, said the Associated press and BBC. Diplomats said the expressions of concern about Haiti were to make sure that Aristide can't use his presence at the summit... to claim he has international support, the Apr. 23 New York Post reported. Reuters said that the Summit decided to comment on Haiti because leaders did not want Aristide to return home in triumph.

Haitians supporting Aristide organized 8 buses from Montreal and one from New York to hold a demonstration of about 600 in support of Aristide outside the Summit, but this seems not to have had much effect on Chritien and others scolding the Haitian president.

Though billed as an economic summit to launch by 2005 a Free Trade Agreement for the Americas (FTAA), a Western Hemisphere free trade zone, the meeting mostly focused on how to politically control a continent which is seething with discontent. Despite the official mythology that neoliberalism promotes higher living standards, more Latin Americans now live in poverty than in 1980, about 36% according to the Chile-based Economic Commission for Latin America (CEPAL), and the divide between rich and poor has been widening.

Economic hardship and disparities will grow even more if the FTAA becomes a reality. By removing tariff barriers, U.S. capital will steamroll Latin America's much smaller and weaker economies, destroying farmers and entire industries with unfair competition. Furthermore multinationals will have a much freer hand to destroy the environment, sue governments, and repatriate profits tax- free.

The hegemonic superpower is trying to dictate the conditions for the surrender of the Latin American governments, quipped Cuban President Fidel Castro, who has been barred from all the Summits since the first one in Miami in 1994.

In the Declaration of Quebec City, the 34 heads of state, with the exception of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, pledged to direct our Ministers to ensure that negotiations of the FTAA Agreement are concluded no later than January 2005 and to seek its entry into force as soon as possible thereafter, but in any case, no later than December 2005. But the pledge was largely meaningless, since most of the leaders face citizens and legislatures which may well deny them the authority to enter into such an agreement, including U.S. President George Bush.

Only Chavez was honest about this reality. I cannot commit myself to the date of 2005, as that depends on assemblies, congresses and, in the case of Venezuela, a referendum, he said.

Unable to build any real economic consensus other than some vague generalities, the meeting sought to declare representative democracy, that is bourgeois democracy, as the only legitimate form of government for the hemisphere. Once again, Chavez expressed his reservations, pointing out that participative democracy, as is found in Cuba, offers another viable model.

The Declaration, which was drafted mainly by Washington, also sought to outlaw and preemptively isolate any future revolutionary upheavals in the hemisphere by stipulating that any unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic order would disqualify a state from FTAA participation and make it a pariah, like Cuba. Haiti was threatened with such disqualification if it doesn't comply more stringently with Washington's dictates. The Summit asked for yet another delegation of mediators to be dispatched to Haiti to pressure Aristide to share power with Washington's pre-fab opposition front, the Democratic Convergence.

To enforce this arrogant agenda, the Summit proposed to give the Organization of American States (OAS), which Cuba calls Washington's ministry for colonial affairs, some teeth. To enhance our ability to respond to [] threats, we instruct our Foreign Ministers to prepare, in the framework of the next General Assembly of the OAS, an Inter-American Democratic Charter to reinforce OAS instruments for the active defense of representative democracy, reads a key clause in the declaration, which Venezuela again did not endorse. This is a clear proposal to launch an OAS version of the Security Council, the United Nations branch empowered to carry out military actions. In the same vein, the Declaration proposes to strenghten the OAS's ability to better implement our Summit mandates.

Of course, the big story coming out of the Summit of was not the meeting itself but the huge demonstrations against it. Quebec City, chosen precisely because it is North America's only walled city, was surrounded by 4.6 kilometers of 10-foot high chain-link fence.

The citizens of Quebec City called this fence the wall of shame, an obstacle to daily routines which marred their beautiful, historic town.

The Canadian government spent $100 million (CAN) on security measures including the fence, 6,500 police officers, and tear- gas.

The youth of Quebec, students and workers together, began organizing as soon as they heard about the Summit and the Wall. They passed the word to the youth of North America through the internet, phone calls, trips, conferences, and leaflets. Their message was clear: capitalist globalization would mean the end of sovereignty and would be a victory of profit over human needs. The free flow of capital but not the free flow of workers would drive wages down throughout the hemisphere.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), instituted in 1994, has already destroyed Mexican agriculture and nearly wiped out the Canadian auto industry. The FTAA would decimate agriculture throughout the hemisphere. Farmers growing anything produced on the factory farms of U.S. agribusiness -- corn, wheat, cotton, beans, rice -- can't compete.

Canada, and Quebec, would loose the right to control their own water, education and health care, which could all be privatized.

It wasn't just students who were protesting. Farmers in Canada face growing competition from the U.S. agribusiness' use of genetically engineered crops and called on the French farm union leader Josi Bovi to come to Quebec and help with the struggle.

The union movement with help from the Council of Canadians put together an umbrella organization called Operation Springtime Quebec 2001 (OPQ2001). The coalition got a grant of $300,00 from the government of Quebec, which was excluded from participating in the Summit. The slogan of the nationalist movement in Quebec was chez nous, sans nous, inacceptable! (In our home, without us, unacceptable.)

OPQ2001 organized a Peoples Summit, which brought together intellectuals, academics and students, especially from Latin America and the Caribbean, to analyze the political, social and economic consequences of the FTAA. The Peoples Summit made a point of inviting a delegation from Cuba.

OPQ2001 found housing for 9,000 people the night of Thursday, Apr. 19, mostly students, mostly floor space, but indoors which is necessary for Quebec's cold spring. That night the Convergence of Anti-Capitalist Struggles (CLAC) and Welcoming Committee to the Summit of the Americas (CASA) held a torchlight march from the University of Laval to the Grand Theatre, which was warmly greeted by people in downtown-working class districts. The march avoided confronting the police.

The next day CLAC/CASA and the Group Opposed to the Globalization of Markets (GOMM ) joined forces at the University of Laval and then marched out separately, with the CLAC/CASA march heading towards the Grande Theatre and GOMM heading for the Plains of Abraham.

Once both groups reached the perimeter fence -- guarded by 6,500 cops, backed up by 1,200 soldiers -- some elements began to take the fence down. Sections fell with surprising ease. Five to ten large individuals would jump up and pull it part way down, then hooks and a line would be attached to each end of the section. Then 10 to 15 people would pull the fence down with the ropes.

When the cops brought up two mobile water cannons, people smashed their windshields, forcing them to retreat. So the cops brought out their tear gas, and the pattern for the next two days was set. The people -- mainly the youth from all over Canada, the Yukon, British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario as well as Quebec and the Maritimes -- tried to take the fence down. The cops responded with tear gas, but they could not drive the youth away from the wall for any length of time. The demonstrators kept coming back, morning, noon and night, braving water cannons, tear gas, pepper spray and the threat of arrest.

The demonstrators cheered when the start of the Summit was delayed for over an hour; when certain parts were closed on Saturday to clear buildings of tear gas, and when a section of the fence came down. Almost every head of state who spoke at the Summit was forced to acknowledge the demonstrations in their remarks.

The support from the neighborhoods where this struggle took place was intense. People ran hoses out of their windows or in their yards to let protesters rinse out their eyes from the tear gas or fill their water bottles. Older women gave protesters fresh baked muffins; store owners in boarded- up shops opened up when they heard people gagging or crying from the tear gas, and let them buy water or juice and use their toilets. The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW/TCA) local from Kitchner, Ontario got off their buses wearing bandanas and swimming goggles to protect their eyes against tear gas.

Both the CAW and Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE/Ontario) had announced that they were considering a breakaway from the march route that the big Quebec union leaders had picked, since it headed straight away from the Summit and the wall of shame that surrounded it.

The CAW has been decimated by the NAFTA.The FTAA would abolish us, one member said. Cars could be made anywhere. CUPE members face the threat of privatization and layoffs as cities consolidate and provinces cut back.

CAW brought 5,000 to 7,000 members to Quebec on April 21. CUPE, which does not organize in Quebec, had 2,000 to 3,000.

The Metalos/Steelworkers, who feel that the FTAA would destroy most of their work, rented a train from Hamilton, Ontario and filled it. The demonstration visibly swelled when they marched in off that train. They probably had a presence just slightly smaller than CAW's. Some of Metalos' handmade signs raised the idea of a hemisphere-wide general strike against the FTAA. There was a contingent of the Steelworkers District 4 from Buffalo, New York. It appeared to be the only U.S. labor contingent that came to Quebec City.

The banners that the International Action Center, a U.S. group, brought calling for liberty for Mumia Abu-Jamal in English, French and Spanish were widely carried.

It was obvious that everyone knew what had happened on Apr. 20, the turbulent first day of demonstrations. One Metalos was overheard telling another: You've got to compare those kids yesterday to the Palestinian kids taking on the Israelis. They should be an inspiration to us. The other Metalos agreed.

Still there wasn't a cop in sight, except for a few directing traffic as the buses pulled in full and out empty. Security and order was being provided by 1,000 members of the Federation of Quebecois Workers (FTQ) the confederation that includes most of the unions in Quebec affiliated with generally large, well-established international unions.

The other large contingents were from two other labor confederations: the CSN (Confederation of National Unions), which contains most of the smaller unions and is closer to the Quebec nationalist movement and the CSQ (Confederation of Unions of Quibec), which contains almost all of the teachers. Most of the CSQ slogans raised privatization.

The CSQ even turned out its affiliate in the Gaspesie (Gaspe peninsula) and the Iles de la Madeleine, areas 18-hours drive to the east of Quebec City, and the North Shore, on the northern shore of the St. Lawrence, about 8 hours drive northeast.

As for the size of this march,. the front of the march reached the rally spot two hours before the last groups, an environmental contingent from Greenpeace and CLAC's anti-imperialist contingent, stepped off. The cops estimate that there were 25,000 people in the march; organizers say a figure closer to 60,000 is accurate. Whatever the number is, everyone seems to agree that it was the largest march ever in Quebec.

The FTQ was able to keep any major breakaway from happening, but a few fairly small groups from the CAW, CUPE and the Metalos left a bit later and worked their way up the hill and into the thick of the action and tear-gas at the Grand Theatre on Boulevard Rene-Levesque, where repeated attempts to take down the fence were made. It was quite a sight to see union-banners flying in the midst of clouds of tear gas. The CUPE contingent even had gas masks.

There were other sizable marches that took place on Saturday, Apr. 21. The Confederation of Canadian Students led about 4,000 students, according to some reports, from the University of Laval about 2 kilometers to the Plains of Abraham, where they met a gathering of public service unions and marched a few blocks away from the perimeter along its length to join the main union march.

Five to ten buses from Montreal pulled into Laval too late for the student march so the people on them just formed up and marched down Boulevard Rene-Levesque to the action at the Grand Theatre. All the 6,500 cops and 1,200 soldiers deployed in Quebec City were inside the perimeter keeping the 34 heads of state and their staffs safe.

After Seattle, Porto Alegre, Prague, and Davos, the struggle against capitalist-led globalization took a major step forward in Quebec the weekend of April 20-April 22, 2001.