Date: Thu, 31 Jul 97 13:56:22 CDT
From: Haiti Progres <>
Organization: Haiti Progres
Subject: This Week in Haiti 15:19 7/30/97
Article: 15453

General strike successful throughout Haiti

Haiti Progres, This Week in Haiti, 30 July–5 August 1997

These days, a general strike in Haiti is not an easy thing. Sky-high prices on everything from rice to cement to charcoal forces poor Haitians to hawk, haul, or hustle feverishly and to think hard before sacrificing a day where they might earn a few gourdes.

This reality punctuates the success of the July 28 nationwide general strike called by a coalition of a dozen popular organizations to demand the immediate withdrawal of all foreign military forces presently stationed in Haiti and an end to the Haitian government's neoliberal policies. The date marked the 82nd anniversary of the first U.S. military invasion of Haiti in 1915.

Despite vigorous counter-propaganda by conservative media and counter-measures by the Haitian National Police (PNH), in most of Haiti's regional cities, stores and offices remained closed while public transportation and commerce were paralyzed.

In Port-au-Prince, streets were without traffic and businesses were shuttered throughout the early morning hours. But around 11 a.m., cars and buses started to roll and businesses started to open after certain radio stations reported that the strike was folding. Undaunted, popular organization militants fanned out through the city, encouraging the population to continue observing the strike call. By 3 p.m., the streets of the capital were again largely empty.

We can say that the strike succeeded 70 to 80 percent in the capital, announced Edouard Baker, a leader of the National Popular Assembly (APN), one of the organizations leading the strike. This was a huge victory for the Haitian people.

Success rates were even higher in the provinces. In the regions of Cap-Haitien, Les Cayes, and Jacmel, strike organizers say participation was 90-95 percent. In Gonaives and the Artibonite, government offices opened but received no visits.

On July 25, the popular organizations had also organized a loud and spirited sit-in of about 150 people in front of the U.N. headquarters in Port-au-Prince.

As in previous strikes, the government sought to intimidate the popular organizations through arrests and threats. On July 23, a judge in the town of Plaisance ordered the arrest of three APN members who were mobilizing for the strike. They were held for several hours.

In the capital, at 5:30 a.m. on the morning of the strike, a police unit arrested at gun-point Rene Civil, the leader of the Popular Power Youth (JPP), another organization in the general strike coalition. They held him for the day at police headquarters in Delmas and released him without charges.

Other organizations who took part in leading the strike were the Assembly of Popular Organization Power (PROP), the Movement of Repatriated Haitian Refugees for Development (MORRAD), and the Coordination of Neighborhood Committees (KOKOK).

Despite the success of the strike, the United Nations Security Council continued to inch toward approving a 4-month extension of the mandate which supposedly legitimatizes the body's intrusion into the internal affairs of Haiti, a violation of the U.N. Charter and the Haitian Constitution. The new mission would be reduced to 1000 instead of the current 1300 troops and renamed the U.N. Transition Mission in Haiti. The mandate for the current U.N. Support Mission in Haiti (MANUH) runs out July 31.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is also sounding out several Caribbean countries—in particular Jamaica—about sending soldiers and policemen to Haiti after Nov. 30 to help decorate what is still essentially a U.S. military occupation.

In the wake of the strike, calls for the end of military occupation multiplied. Clearly the Haitian population are asking [the foreign troops] to leave the country right away, said Yvon Feuille, a Senator-elect for the Lavalas Family party of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide, on Radio Metropole. Thus I think it's obvious that the MANUH should leave the country.

Most significantly, anti-occupation sentiment is seeping even into the ranks of the police, whom the U.N. says they are staying to further bolster and train. With their own mouths, some of the officers at police headquarters told me that the strike was a great success, Rene Civil said the day after his release. They told me: ‘Keep up the good work.’ How about that?