Date: Sun, 15 Sep 1996 15:32:03 -0500
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Date: Wed, 11 Sep 1996 15:13:45 CDT
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From: NY Transfer News Collective <>
Subject: This Week in Haiti 14:24 9/4/96

Battle lines drawing up

This Week in Haiti, Haiti Progres, Vol.14 no.24, 4–10 August 1996

This week's ultimatum by the former soldiers of the Armed Forces of Haiti (Fadh) to the Haitian government, delivered by open letter on Aug. 29, was clear and direct: release our imprisoned comrades in 7 days, or we will unleash a civil war in Haiti.

Over the summer, Haiti has experienced a steadily growing tide of violence and terror as the former military and paramilitary gunmen of the Sept. 30, 1991 coup d'etat have increased pressure on the weak and corrupt government of President Rene Preval. In response, the Haitian government timidly arrested in the past 4 weeks about 3 dozen of some 6000 demobilized soldiers in the capital and a few other towns around Haiti.

A Sept. 2 communique by Prime Minister Rosny Smarth epitomized the government's defensive and irresolute posture as it naively invited the demobilized soldiers to not allow themselves to be manipulated and drawn into a cycle of violence. In conjunction with the international community, a project is under study to take account of their situation. In past months, the former soldiers have held provocative demonstrations in the capital to demand back-pay and benefits, to which they consider themselves entitled. The U.S. government has already seen to it that they received computer training and often even new job placement after the Fadh's merely formal dismantling.

Meanwhile, dissension and recriminations wrack the Lavalas alliance. A congress of the Mouvement Organization du Pays (MOP)—which is part of the supposedly-ruling Lavalas Political Platform coalition with the Parti Louvri Barye (PLB) and the Organisation Politique Lavalas (OPL)—was the forum for an acrimonious struggle between at least three vying opportunist currents. On Sept. 3, Lavalas parliamentarians held an extraordinary closed door meeting to try to establish some unity among their ranks which have been badly split on questions of how to implement neo-liberal economic reforms, how to control Macoute violence, and how to control the National Police.

To their credit, the Haitian parliament did block the signing of a $3 million loan contract this week between the Preval government and the Inter-American development Bank (IDB) on the grounds that conditions called for the executive to establish yet another money-sucking sovereignty-subverting independent office to administer the money and formulate a decentralization plan (i.e. a plan to facilitate foreign political and economic control) in a ridiculously short 30 months (i.e. before the end of Preval's term).

However, with chaos mounting, Preval's presidency could be shorter than the prescribed 5 years. Clinton administration officials seem mainly concerned that things remain stable until the November presidential elections. It is an open secret, both in Haiti and the U.S., that Haiti will be a political football in this year's campaign. Rather than denounce and reject the deadly U.S. manipulation of the country's political life, Haitian government officials and lawmakers have meekly complained to Washington about the scrimmage trampling the country. As early as last May, Haitian parliamentarians told U.S. congresspeople that the U.S. election campaign could bring violence to Haiti. Democrats told us our fears might be justified, Republicans that they were observing the situation, Haitian Sen. Jean-Robert Martinez told the Associated Press. Martinez also said that certain political sectors may be interested in tarnishing Clinton's image.

That threat brought a scurry of U.S. officials to Port-au-Prince last week, starting with Gen. John Sheehan, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Atlantic Command on Aug. 25. The U.S. is solidly behind President Preval and the Haitian government, he declared. Next, the State Department's new special coordinator for Haiti Joseph Sullivan travelled to Haiti on Aug. 28 to announce that the U.S. government had found $10 million to buy equipment for the Haitian National Police (HNP). We are going to continue to give all our assistance to achieve economic growth and social pacification, U.S. Ambassador William L. Swing said on the occasion, in other words, we are going to continue to support the National Police. It was perhaps Swing's most eloquent summation of U.S. policy towards Haiti.

Two days later, Assistant Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, accompanied by Sheehan, made an impromptu visit to Port-au-Prince to meet with Preval. Neither the U.S. nor Haitian governments would comment on what was discussed, but everyone could guess. The visit came one day after the Aug. 29 assassination in Port-au-Prince of Yves Phanor, a naturalized U.S. citizen and instructor employed by the U.S. Justice Department to train the Haitian National Police (HNP). Another attack against occupation forces occurred in Petit Gove on Aug. 25, when a truck and two residences of U.N. soldiers were fired on.

The situation has become so chaotic that many parents are reluctant to send their children back to schools which are due to reopen in one month (assuming they have the money in the collapsing economy). To allay fears, the government is promising security measures for the schools.

Meanwhile, popular organizations are beginning to seek their own alternatives. Hundreds of people marched from St. Jean Bosco through the capital on Aug. 28 to protest the growing Macoute violence and to demand government action. Although it was unclear who exactly organized the protest, demonstrators called for justice for Father Jean Marie Vincent, a progressive priest assassinated by a putschist death-squad on Aug. 28, 1994, for the demobilized soldiers to be disarmed and tried, and for the government to do take measures to curb the terror of neo- putschist death-squads. If the government continues to sit with its arms folded, declared one demonstrator, we will have to act on our own. The demonstrators burned tires symbolically in several streets around the capital.

The same day, at a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of Vincent's death at the former killing fields and body-dumping grounds at Titanyen just north of the capital, several speakers reproached the Haitian president and other government officials on hand for their failure to deliver justice for the crimes of the coup. Preval responded with new levels of demagogy. We hear all the criticisms and suggestions, but we have a suggestion to give back to civil society, Preval said at the ceremony. He then alluded very obliquely to the 160,000 pages of putschist documents now housed in the Pentagon after U.S. soldiers whisked them out of Haiti in 1994 and which his government only occasionally and obliquely requests to be returned. Perhaps the government has a job to do in turning the pages on a number of cases, but other people also have a job to do. We are waiting not only for the government to rise up, but also for the people to rise up.

Are Preval and the Lavalas bourgeoisie now calling on the people to help them escape from the violent crisis created by their much-protested policies of reconciliation and reliance of foreign military forces? It is very reminiscent of how this liberal bourgeoisie turned to the popular organizations and Father Aristide for an alliance to win the elections in 1990. At that time, popular organizations did ally with the liberal bourgeoisie against the resurgent Macoutes. But the foundations of that alliance were those of the popular organizations: nationalism, popular participation, and justice. Today, Preval's program is the exact opposite: subservience to foreign dictates; elitism, cronyism, and corruption; and total nationwide impunity for putschist criminals. In the past 6 months, Preval has arrogantly belittled and intimidated the protests of popular organizations for justice. Now that he is being destabilized by all the unjudged criminals of the coup and Duvalier years, he is turning back to the people and the popular organizations to ask for their support. This is always how the Lavalas bourgeoisie acts: turn to the people only when they get in trouble.

Preval today proclaims that his policy is makout pa ladann—Macoutes are disqualified. But, in practice, he tolerates and even encourages Macoutes by leaving repressive corrupt Duvalierist judges in place throughout Haiti; by never even trying to judge renowned Duvalierist criminals like former dictator Prosper Avril or former death-squad leader Emmanuel Toto Constant; by releasing from detention or botching the trial of other Duvalierist criminals; by not demanding regularly and vigorously the 160,000 pages of evidence held by the Pentagon; by tolerating a do-nothing Justice Minister.

Of course, these failings derive fundamentally from Preval's collaboration with and reliance on the continued U.S./U.N. occupation of Haiti. The U.S. government continues to control Haiti from not-so-behind the scenes.

If Preval wants the support of the Haitian people to get out of his bind, he will have to bow to their demands repeated regularly over the past two years. Send all foreign troops home now. Institute popular tribunals to judge the criminals. Abandon the neo-liberal economic plan demanded by the international community. In short, adopt the original Lavalas program of Dec. 16, 1990. The odds against Preval taking even one of these steps are astronomical.