From Wed Jan 14 09:45:08 2004
From: WW News Service <>
To: WW News Service <>
Subject: wwnews Digest #748
Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2004 09:30:31 -0500

From: <> (WW)
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Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2004 08:28:36 -0500
Subject: [WW] Haiti celebrates 200 years of independence

Haiti celebrates 200 years of independence

By G. Dunkel, Workers World, 15 January 2004

Tens of thousands of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s supporters came out Jan. 1 in Port-au-Prince to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Haiti’s independence.

Given the country’s tense political climate—fueled by an opposition that intends to drive Aristide from power through violent street protests like those that have killed 40 and injured hundreds in the last six months—organizers said the turnout was surprising and encouraging.

Twelve international delegations attended the celebration. President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa explained: We celebrate the Haitian Revolution because it dealt a deadly blow to the slave traders who had scoured the coasts of West and East Africa for slaves and ruined the lives of millions of Africans.

Mbeki also acknowledged the heroic struggle still being waged against poverty on both sides of the Atlantic.

Mbeki was scheduled to go to Gonaïves, the city where independence was proclaimed, but his visit was canceled after his helicopter was reportedly fired on.

Our biggest job is to avoid a coup d’etat here, said U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who attended the ceremonies. She criticized the lack of U.S. economic aid to Haiti.

Aristide listed 21 goals he hopes will be accomplished by 2015, from stabilizing the HIV infection rate to reducing poverty. He pushed for $21 billion in reparations from France, the former colonial power, and respect for the Constitution.

U.S. and French media coverage focused on a counter-protest by a motley collection of groups, lumped together in the so-called Democratic Convergence and Group of 184.

Every report noted, however, that the official celebration outdrew the protests.

The convergence, openly funded by the U.S.-based International Republican Insti tute, calls itself the democratic opposition to Aristide but refused to participate in the 2000 elections. They claimed the elections were rigged, but Aristide’s supporters say their lack of support would have been exposed if they had run.

The U.S.-backed opposition includes major business associations, landowners, Catholic and Protestant lay groups, some labor unions representing more high-paid workers, university students from conservative disciplines like business administration, ex-military officers and former members of the Macoutes death squad.

Andy Apaid, who coordinates the Group of 184, owns a manufacturing plant and boasts that he pays his workers $4.50 a day, or two-and-a-half times the legal minimum wage.

Thanks to the legacy of French and U.S. domination, Haiti is by far the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with a life expectancy hovering around 50 years—18 to 20 years lower than its Carib bean neighbors. Unemployment is over 50 percent.

The massive numbers of poor people in Haiti’s cities are Aristide’s main base of support.


The first modern war of national liberation was fought in Haiti from 1801 to 1803, against France’s genocidal attempt to reimpose slavery in Haiti.

In 1804, Haiti became the second independent state in the Western Hemisphere, after the U.S. It was the first Black state formed by a slave rebellion. It could even be considered as one of the earliest examples of a successful general strike.

The Haitian people and their army, under the leadership of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, crushed the French. Napoleon later called it his greatest defeat.

The success of Haiti’s revolution completely flummoxed the 19th-century slave owners and their bourgeois competitors, who relied on wage slavery and were equally racist.

The imperialist powers have spent the last 200 years tearing down Haiti, lying about it and smashing its economy, occupying it militarily and installing pliant regimes—all the while blaming Haitians for the results of this neocolonial campaign.

In 1990, the Haitian people shocked the world bourgeoisie again when they first elected Aristide president. While formally an election, it was really a mass movement of the Haitian people that rolled over the U.S.-approved and -financed candidate, Marc Bazin, a former World Bank official.

Since then, first by a coup and later by economic and political strangulation, both Democratic and Republican administrations in Washington have been trying to rid themselves of Aristide and the movement he crystallized.

So far, they have not succeeded.