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Date: Wed, 12 Jun 1996 06:39:01 -0500
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>>> Item number 5826, dated 96/06/11 01:26:27 -- ALL
Date: Tue, 11 Jun 1996 01:26:27 CDT
Reply-To: ww@wwpublish.com
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
From: NY Transfer News Collective <nyt@blythe.org>
Subject: Landlord Gangs Attack Haitian Peasants

Landlord gangs attack peasants in Haiti

By G. Dunkel, Workers World,
13 June 1996

While international bankers and officials of the International Monetary Fund meet in Port-au-Prince to settle Haiti's economic future, a local dispute in northeast Haiti is threatening to turn into a violent conflict between poor peasants and big landowners.

U.S. Under-Secretary of State Strobe Talbot spent a few hours visiting Haiti May 30. It was the day after President Rene Preval had initialed an agreement with the IMF calling for privatization, slashing 15,000 state jobs and lowering the already low standard of living.

The battle in northeast Haiti is not its first. In the mid-1980s, the Jean-Rabel massacre took place when 1,500 poor peasants, who were demanding land owned by some big landlords, were killed with machetes.

The current tension started when a peasant organizer from the National Popular Assembly (APN), Luckner Charles, handed out leaflets denouncing a local judge, Gaston Obas, for not stopping a ring of thieves stealing cows and goats. Obas was so upset that he had Charles arrested for upsetting him. A few weeks later Charles was provisionally released for lack of evidence.

The APN didn't let this arrest go by without strenuous protests. It also decided to raise another major local issue. Thousands of peasants are currently living in the area without the land they need to feed their families. They had been working in the Dominican Republic, and were expelled by President Joaquin Balaguer before that country's recent election.

At the same time, some big landlords have kept fairly large areas fallow.

So the APN called a demonstration in Trou-de-Nord May 19 to demand land and to denounce privatization and corruption. The government brought cops from all the major cities and towns in northern Haiti and attacked the demonstration as it was breaking up.

They shot into the air and beat demonstrators indiscriminately. Sixteen people were arrested and taken to jail in Cap Hatien.

A few days later in Le Borgne, Edouard Baker, a member of APN's national leadership, was chairing a conference/debate with peasants from the area. A band of thugs with guns, clubs, and knives broke up the meeting. Participants fled.

When Baker and Charles were leaving town the next day, their car was ambushed. They were threatened with death and Charles was slapped around.

On May 28, the APN put together a delegation to go to Le Borgne, a town in the Northeast where APN activists had been threatened with death and badly beaten. The delegation included national leaders of the APN--including Ben Dupuy, editorial director of the Haiti Progres newspaper of Brooklyn, N.Y.--several prosecutors with a subpoena for Obas, members of the United Nations occupation forces and journalists.

The delegation was ambushed on the road out of Le Borgne. The cars were surrounded, windows and headlights broken, film and tape seized from the journalists. The attackers ripped clothes off the delegation, beat and threatened them with death.

The stand-off lasted for six hours, until a local official of the Lavalas movement arrived and negotiated safe passage.

The two wounded APN members in Le Borgne were allowed to leave. But Luckner Charles was arrested. He is still in custody.

The gang that carried out the ambush was organized by Judge Obas. According to eyewitnesses, he went around town with a bullhorn urging people to come out and kill the macoute communist APN members. The latest news from Haiti is that APN members have either fled to Cap Haitien or gone to the bush to avoid being killed.