Date: Thu, 22 May 97 11:01:35 CDT
From: Workers World <>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: General Strike in Haiti
Article: 11398

General strike in Haiti

By John Catalinotto, Workers World, 29 May 1997

A general strike closed factories, shops and schools May 19 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The people demanded a halt to the government's plan to privatize state-run industries.

The strike followed two days of demonstrations and open rebellion the week before.

According to Haitian Press Agency dispatches, a teachers' strike that began in early May—demanding back pay and a salary increase—opened the resistance. Teachers haven't been paid in months, and there are no funds in the government budget for them.

Public-school students began demon strating in solidarity with their teachers. They took over a downtown school May 15 and threw rocks at private-school windows and passing cars.

When police moved in against them, neighborhood people joined the students. The rebellion spread to other parts of the city.

As one injured police officer put it, People are just exploding.

While the action appeared spontaneous, its targets tended to be symbols of the state and foreign powers, and the property of the rich. Participants smashed car windshields and set the courthouse, vehicles and tires on fire.

Windows were broken at a Teleco branch office. The state- run telephone company is slated for privatization. Eight hundred layoffs were announced earlier in May.

Canadian Ambassador Christopher Poole said those taking part in the rebellion had thrown rocks at Canadian troops, who are part of an international occupation force. Other embassies reported their employees were attacked while traveling through the city.

A Reuter report added that in the northern city of St. Marc, anti-privatization demonstrators who also opposed U.S. imperialism displayed Cuban flags.

On the other hand, in the southern city of Petit Goave, people flew the black and red flag used during the Duvalier dictatorships from 1956 to 1986.

Haitian progressives are concerned that spontaneous actions allow ultra-reactionary demagogic forces—such as the Macoute forces supporting ousted dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier—to intervene in the battles.


U.S. troops, although their official role now is humanitarian work, joined other United Nations troops to patrol the streets against the mass rebellion.

President Bill Clinton claimed the September 1994 U.S.-led intervention was meant to restore democracy. But U.S. troops consistently prevent Haitian workers and farmers from punishing those who committed crimes under the 1991-1994 military junta.

U.S. troops allowed pro-militarist and Macoute forces to regroup. These threaten both the mass organizations and the Haitian government, making the latter completely dependent on the occupation force.

In a radio statement May 18, President Rene Preval admitted that the state is working badly, and it is creating despair. But most of his talk threatened those who demonstrate against his programs and warned the population to stay on guard against anarchy.

Austerity imposed by the International Monetary Fund has already brought more Haitians to the starvation level. This is especially true in the northwest, where a drought has threatened the population with famine, according to a report in the May 14-20 issue of Haiti Progress newspaper.

There is no question an angry popular rebellion is justified. Will progressive, working-class forces be able to give it leadership?